Century 21 11 th yr
Century 21 2011- AD
Jan 1 World population is 6.9 billion. The US officially is
around 310.5 million, 27.5 million more than ten years ago - a growth
big enough for 27 more large cities. Growth rate for the Democratic
Republic of the Congo is 3.17%; for Afghanistan, 2.47%; Iraq 2.45%;
India 1.38%; the US 0.97%; China 0.49%; South Korea 0.26%; Japan, minus
Jan 1 Christians and Muslims clash in Alexandria. A bomb
kills at least 27 people at a Christian church. Angry Christians attack
Muslims, enter a mosque and throw books into the street. President
Mubarak calls on all Egyptians to unite against terrorism.
Jan 1 In Hungary a "National Media and Communications
Authority" is empowered to impose heavy fines for coverage that it
considers unbalanced or offensive to human dignity or common morals.
Chacellor Merkel of Germany considers the new law offensive to the
dignity of the European Union. The law is supported by the
conservatives now in power and very popular in Hungary, led by Prime
Minister Viktor Orban.
assassinated under orders
from Islamic clerics
Jan 4 Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, is
murdered by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, who is said to have been
influenced by clerics. They issued a decree of death against the
governor for opposing the sentence of hanging given to a Christian
mother of five, Asia Noreen, convicted of blasphemy. The governor was
murdered for supporting, according to the BBC, "a perfectly legal idea
to amend a man-made law with the name of Islam appended to it."
Jan 4 Interviewed by Spitzer and Parker on CNN, Pakistan's
politician and former cricket star, Imran Kahn, repeats his charge that
US bombing in Pakistan is inflaming opinion and is counter-productive.
It's a war for hearts and minds he says, and the US is losing that war.
Khan is distraught over the assassination of Punjab governor Salman
Taseer. "Pakistan," he complains, "is imploding."
Jan 5 In Tunisia, protests against unemployment and food
prices have spread despite police repressions. A few have died.
Muhammad Bouazi died yesterday after having set himself on fire a few
days before. Just as Tunisian students were keen in observing student
protests in other countries in the region, young people in these other
countries now hunger for news about the protests in Bouazizi. Twitter
spread interest in the revolt within Tunisia and among young people in
Jan 5 Regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010,
a panel ordered by President Obama has, in the words of the BBC.
"reviewed thousands of pages of documents, interviewed hundreds of
witnesses, and in the autumn conducted a series of public hearings."
The panel blames the disaster on cost-cutting decisions by the
Jan 8 In Pakistan the assassin of Governor Taseer is
celebrated by many as a hero. The US educated Pakistani analyst Dr
Hasan-Askari Rizvi declares that "... the mindset that sustains
militancy, that dilutes or prevents action against it - I think that
has become fairly widespread. It has seeped into our educated classes,
governmental institutions and the armed forces, where you can detect
sympathy for militancy, and also to an extent for the Taliban."
Jan 8 In Tucson, Arizona, 22-year-old Jared Loughner kills
six people and gravely wounds Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Loughner was targeting Giffords for assassination. He is described as
having used a Glock-19 pistol.
Jan 9 According to the BBC, as many as 50,000 people have
staged a protest in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi against a
proposed softening of strict blasphemy laws. Demonstrators held banners
in support of the assassin of Governor Taseer, Mumtaz Qadri.
Jan 10 The BBC reports that when Mumtaz Qadri emptied two
magazines of a sub-machine gun at the man he was assigned to guard, 13
other policemen-guards were standing by and none of them attempted to
Jan 12 The talk of global weirding in reference to weather
continues. Australia is having an unusually wet summer. Queensland is
having its worst floods in more than 50 years. The loss of crops is
expected to produce a spike upward in food prices around the world, and
damaged coal mining is expected to result in higher oil prices,
especially in Asia. This comes in the wake of Pakistan having what is
described as its worst flooding in history and Britain having its
coldest winter in 1,000 years. Russia has also been experiencing
Jan 13 Unusually heavy rains, flooding and mud slides in
southeastern Brazil has killed more than 420 persons. Brazilians say
they have never seen anything like it.
Jan 13 Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka,
Kansas, are denied the right to picket the funeral for the
nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, one of six people killed Saturday
in Tucson, Arizona. As the Westboro people see it, bad things happen
because God is angry about sin - a common idea in ancient times and the
reason Jehovah is supposed to have destroyed the world the first time.
Westboro church members see sin as having caused the Tucson murders and
the deaths of US servicemen, and the sin they have been protesting
against is homosexuality.They apparently chose Christina's funeral for
the sake of visibility.
Jan 15 In Tunisia, intensified police crackdowns have made
matters worse for President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. His 23-years of
rule ends as he flies off to Saudi Arabia. Muhammad Bouazizi, age-26,
who set himself afire and died, has become a martyr and a symbol among
other young people across the region who are frustrated.
Jan 16 In Tunisia, as a new interim leader is sworn in,
people take the opportunity to loot and vent hostility against
authority in general. In residential areas men with clubs join together
in the street intent on protecting their property. The police are
associated with the old regime and are in hiding. New elections are
promised for within three months.
Jan 17 Tunisia's ousted dictator, Ben Ali, is being described
as having spouted phony reform rhetoric in public, having "defended
women's rights, educated his middle class" and as having "prevented the
radical Islamists from coming to power." These quoted words are by
columnist Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post. She further describes
Ben Ali as having "created fake opposition parties and a phony
parliament, set up a draconian regime that controlled the Internet and
beat up the occasional dissident to keep everybody else frightened."
She describes events in Tunisia as a "revolt of the frustrated young
against their corrupt elders." She hopes but is not sure that the
government that emerges will bring Tunisians "greater liberty and
Jan 17 The Associated Press writes that today protesters set
themselves afire in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania "in apparent copycat
self-immolation attempts inspired by the act that helped trigger a
popular uprising in Tunisia."
Jan 20 Economic figures for 2010 are published. In first
place in per capita GDP is Qatar, which is doing well in banking as
well as oil. Liechtenstein and Luxembourg are second and third, and
fourth place is Bermuda, which counts for less because it is even less
populous and its residents are benefitting from its successful
financial services industry. Singapore has moved from 8th to 5th place
past Norway, and Norway has increased its lead over the United States
from 20% higher in 2009 to 27% higher in 2010. But in per capita GDP
the US is chugging along still ahead of Canada, Britain, Switzerland
and most other European powers.
Jan 24 A French cable company, Nexans, worldwide leader in
the cable industry, has been awarded a contract by China's Huawei
Marine Networks to lay a submarine fibre optic cable that connects
Libya and Greece.
Jan 25 One week after a protester set himself afire in Egypt
copying an event in Tunisia, massive protests erupt in Cairo,
Alexandria and other crowded Egyptian cities. Three die on the first
day. More is expected tomorrow. As a defensive move the government is
blocking mobile phone and twitter communications. People are unhappy
about economic conditions, what they speak of as corruption, and they
focus their anger on President Mubarak, whom they see as an oppressor.
Jan 25 New economic figures have been published by the CIA
Factbook. These latest figures show the United States as third largest
oil producer, not far behind Russia and Saudi Arabia and as having
nearly twice the production of the country in fourth place: Iran. But
the US leads in oil consumption. The latest figures (for the year 2009)
show US oil consumption at 18.69 million barrels per day compared to
13.68 million barrels by the more populous European Union and 8.2
million for third-place China. Russia and Saudi Arabia consume only
around a fifth of what they produce. The US consumes twice as much as
Jan 25 President Obama gives his State of the Union Message.
He calls for advancing the economy, including energy efficiency, by
government participation in investing. Some of his critics complain
that "investing" is Obama's code word for "spending." All investing
they believe should be done by private enterprise.
Jan 27 Another day of protests - following Friday prayers.
The course of revolution unfolds: Mobs overwhelm the police and the
police change into civilian clothes and flee. The army appears on the
street. President Mubarak fires his cabinet and claims that he is
staying on to the protect the nation's security. It is now up to the
army to support him or to side with those in the street. Monarchs
usually fall at this stage, and most observers think Mubark's day are
in power are few. Tomorrow will be a telling day.
Jan 30 In Egypt there is looting. People accuse Mubarak of
allowing criminals out of the prisons, and Mubarak as the defender or
order is winning no support. The army is in the streets with the common
soldiers celebrating with the people. People are in front of the homes
to defend their home with the best weapons they can get their hands on
- often clubs and knives. Few if anybody is expects the military to
start clearing the streets with force. Meanwhile pundits on television
are vague about the economic component behing the revolution, with
Fareed Zakaria describing the revolution as a product of Egypt's
economic success and rising expectations. Some others disagree. Best
viewing is live stream
Feb 1 People are again in the streets of Egypt
demanding in unison that President Mubarak step down - now. Mubarak
stands tough. He speaks of a "silent majority" and that he is a man of
the military. He talks patriotism and his service to Egypt. He says
that he will die in Egypt, and he says he will not run for re-election
in September. TV anchors describe people in the streets as a revolution
and speak vaguely about reforms. The anchors say nothing about any kind
of major economic reform and nothing, of course, about population
growth. Christopher Hitchens in Slate is describing the crucial element
making the revolt as psychological (not economic). David Brooks in the
New York Times writes of a "Quest for Dignity." Some in the United
States see aid from the US to Egypt as having been a waste and are
rallying opposition to foreign aid.
Feb 1 In response to demonstrations of a lesser extent, King
Abdullah of Jordon dismisses his cabinet and appoints a new prime
minister whom he calls on to institute "true prolitical reforms." The
BBC describes the protesters as demanding action on unemployment and
rising prices. The political reform they call for is the right to elect
the prime minister.
Feb 2 A BBC journalist in Egypt said it: Egypt's ruling elite
is fighting back. Pro-Mubarak forces instigate violence against
protesters. Journalists are singled out, beaten up and some put into
jail. The Army watches while it is assumed by many of us that the
military top brass is siding with Mubarak against the uncertainty that
threatens Egypt elite.
Mubarak must go
Feb 2 In Yemen for the Second Day of Rage, any thousands in
the cities Sana'a, Aden and Taiz protesting against the government's
constitutional amendment allowing President Saleh to run for another
term. In a speech, against government corrupts and Saleh's control of
power and resources. Saleh of Yemen looks down upon protests in the
streets and says that he would not run for re-election when his term
ends in 2013 and that neither will his eldest son, Ahmed.
Feb 3 Reports exist of impoverished young men being paid to
join in the attack on anti-Mubarak demonstrators - one source is Arab
News, an English language online newspaper in Saudi Arabia. Those in
charge of Egypt's security and its state-run television are holding to
the practice of lying for the sake of the status quo. The uprising is
being blamed on foreigners. Journalists are being singled out as spies.
Journalists are being roughed up and in some instances taken away to
jails. Anderson Copper of CNN has been punched ten times in the head. A
Fox Newsreporter has been arrested as an Israeli spy. State-run TV has
not given its journalists the right to report from the street. There
are no reports of what is happening in the street, but there is an
attractive young woman singing "My president, my president you feel for
us. You always raise our heads high." Two journalists quit Nile TV, and
they are proclaimed as heroes.
Feb 3 Using NASA's telescope in outer space, astronomers
discover planets in a system with a star much like the sun - at a
distance of about 2,000 light years. It is estimated that there must be
a great many more such systems, extending the likelihood of life
elsewhere in the universe.
Feb 3 Lenin continues to be downgraded. Chairman of the
Communist Party USA, Sam Webb writes that Marxism-Leninism "was too
rigid and formulaic, our analysis too loaded with questionable
assumptions, our methodology too undialectical, our structure too
centralized, and our politics drifting from political realities." He
describes Marxism-Leninism as having taken shape "during the Stalin
Feb 5 ABC News describes the new worth of Hosni Mubarak's
family as ranging "from $40 billion to $70 billion by some estimates."
That is near the wealth of Bill Gates. ABC News quotes a professor of
Middle East Politics at Durham University in England: "Mubarak, his
wife and two sons were able to also accumulate wealth through a number
of business partnerships with foreigners."
Feb 5 The protests in Egypt are united by a common desire
among them for Mubarak to step down and for real elections. They are
without outstanding leaders. There is no cabal telling them what they
should do or believe. But there is the claim by supporters of Mubarak
that the anti-Mubarak protest is driven by devilish persons with
ulterior motives. They are associating the protest movement with
foreign instigators. And in the US at Fox News, Glenn Beck speaks of
Islamists and Leftists together driving the protest movement. These
conspirators, claims Beck, want to crush the American way of life.
Feb 6 It is now being reported that the pro-Mubarak
supporters in the streets on February 2 and 3 were not just the "thugs"
orchestrated by a state agency of some sort. There remains in Egypt
many people who are uncomfortable with the idea of change. And there
are many who want the demonstrators to go home and back to work and to
give those in power time to act on their promises.
Feb 7 Leadership of the protest movement in Cairo has
emerged, described in the US press as a handful of young people who
helped start the protest movement. The New York Times reports that they
are "...busy meeting to organize their many small groups into a unified
structure." Their movement continues to insist on Mubarak's immediate
resignation, and they go beyond Mubarak. They support moves against
economic "corruption" like that of the steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, a friend
of Mubarak's son Gamal. And they call Vice President Suleiman a
Feb 8 We are being reminded by some in the media that a
global food crisis is happening. Writes economist Paul Krugman: "World
food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in the
prices of wheat, corn sugar and oils." Severe weather events are being
described as the cause of the food crisis, with a connection to global
warming. And the recent unrest in North Africa and the Middle East is
being connected to rising food prices - which drove Parisians into the
streets in 1789
Feb 8 Contrary to the expectations of some, "one of the
biggest protests yet" occurs in Egypt, according to Reuters. It is
reported in the US media that the demonstrators do not trust the
Mubarak regime, especially Vice President Suleiman, enough to stop
their demonstrations. They believe that for their own protection they
must continue to hang together. Anderson Cooper of CNN says this is
"the most dangerous time for the anti-Mubarak protesters." Dr. Fouad
Ajami of Johns Hopkins University says there is nothing more dangrous
than a wounded dictator.
Feb 8 The New York Times reports: "Israel, Saudi Arabia,
Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have each repeatedly pressed the
United States not to cut loose Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, too
hastily, or to throw its weight behind the democracy movement in a way
that could further destabilize the region, diplomats say." At least a
few US conservatives agree. Meanwhile, the US having any control over
events in Egypt beyond withdrawing aid to the Mubarak-military regime
appears to be fantasy, and the Obama administration has said nothing
about "reviewing" US aid to Egypt's military since the Mubarak regime
began promising more democracy and freedom for Egyptians.
Feb 9 On this, the 16th day of the uprising in Egypt,
protests widen. In Port Said at the mouth of the Suez Canal, angry
protests include setting fire to a government building, textile workers
block roads and canal workers are on a sit-down strike. In the city of
El Kharga protesters burn down a police station and other buildings. A
report describes 5,000 unemployed youths storming a government building
in Aswan. At Egypt's most widely circulated newspaper, Al-Ahram,
journalists join together to demand better working conditions and the
freedom to report with more honesty. It appears to be the end of the
Mubarak-military dictatorship. If the Vice President orders the army to
crack down, the lower-ranks of the army are likely to go over to the
side of the revolution.
Feb 10 In Bolivia, a crowd is angry with President Morales
over food shortages and rising prices. Morales feels forced to abandon
a public event.
Feb 10 In Egypt, joining the protests in Cairo are thousands
of chanting lawyers in black robes and medical persons wearing white
lab coats, also engineers and journalists. Postal workers join in
solidarity with the youth of Tahrir square, and workers across Egypt
are on strike. The Mubarak-Suleiman regime no longer controls the
media. And they have probably lost control of the common soldier.
Feb 11 It is early morning in Egypt - still dark - as this is
being written. Yesterday in Cairo the Supreme Council of the Armed
Forces met for the third time since 1967, and high-ranking officers met
with the demonstrators and announced that all of the movement's demands
will be met. Presumably this includes Mubarak and Suleiman stepping
down. The military appears to have already chosen to be on the side of
the people of Egypt - the people demonstrating - which is in the
military's interest. Mubarak failed to face the reality that he no
longer has any power. To a nation that rejects him as their president
he said, "I am addressing all of you from the heart, a speech from the
father to his sons and daughters." He said that what was happening was
not about him, it was about his beloved Egypt, but he rambled on to
focus on himself and his service to the nation. He referred to himself
as president, spoke about defending Egypt from foreign intrusions, and
he said nothing about resigning. His VP, Suleiman, spoke a half hour
later and advised people to go back to their houses and to their work.
The people of Egypt have no more patience with being treated like
children. As we enter the new day the people of Egypt are more angry
than they were yesterday. Yesterday had the biggest crowds yet, and it
is said that today there will be more of them. Today is showdown day.
Feb 11 Late today, Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak has
"charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs
of the country." A spokesman for the military announced that, "The
armed forces are committed to sponsor the legitimate demands of the
people." He said, "There is no legitimacy other than that of the
people." Egyptians in the streets erupted in a euphoric celebration
that lasted through the night.
Feb 13 In Yemen during the last three days the government has
been arristing protesters. Protesters are confronted by pro-Saleh
demonstrators, and today security forces arrest 120.
Feb 13 From Egypt, Richard Engel of NBC News, one
of the best US journalists working the Middle East, reports that he
found what seems like a protest on every corner in Cairo. He speaks of
protests by bank employees, factory employees and journalists. People,
he says "are no longer willing to accept corruption and mismanagement."
Policemen, he adds, are "reinventing themselves" and asking for better
Feb 15 In front of Sana'a University, around 2,000 Saleh
supporters, backed by undercover police and using sticks and electric
batons, attack student protesters.
Feb 17 After days of protest, Bahrain's military does what
the Egyptian military did not: crackdown and disperse the
demonstrators. In Bahrain the military moved against the
demonstrators with tanks, tear gas, shot guns and concussion grenades
in the early morning while the demonstrators were sleeping. At least
five persons are reported dead.
Feb 17 In Libya's capital, Tripoli, demonstrators in the
streets are pro-government. Libya had its revolution,
beginning in 1969, led by Muammar el-Gaddafi. Anti-Gaddafi protests
appear in cities in along the eastern coast, in Al Bayda and Benghazi.
Feb 18 In Bahrain people are back in the street mourning
their dead. Their call for a constitutional monarchy has changed to a
call for an end to the monarchy. The government says it is sorry but
that the military crackdown was necessary. The security excuse is
considered a lie. It appears that what they saw as necessary was
preserving their power.
Feb 18 Demonstrators in the hundreds are reported to be in
the streets of Libya's major cities, along with government forces.
Human Rights Watch reports 24 dead - in recent days it would seem.
Greater demonstrations are taking place today in Yemen, in their eighth
Feb 19 Protests continue in Libya, with 84 reported dead. A
pro-government newspaper, Al Zahf Al Akhdar, writes that to "Any risk
from these minuscule groups, the people and the noble revolutionary
power [Gaddafi's 1969 revolution] will violently and thunderously
respond." In the Western press descriptions of Libya as under a
dictatorship continue. Unemployment is high among young Libyans and
there is considerable homelessness. Libya has had a very fast growth in
population and rising urbanization.
Tripoli capital city of Libya
Feb 20 Reports on the fifth day of protest in Libya describe
open fire on residents of the city of Benghazi as they attend a funeral
procession. Dozens are described as killed. Also described, in the New
York Times, is a quick crushing of "three smaller uprisings in
working-class suburbs of the capital, Tripoli." International news
organizations are prohibited from entering Libya, so it is difficult to
measure how massive the protests are, but videos out of Libya available
on the BBC show crowds much more sparse than those that had appeared in
Egypt. One video shows "protesters" with captured weapons. Whether the
protesters are firing back at government forces remains an unknown. The
likelihood that the "protesters" can win a violence contest against
government forces seems to be nearly zero.
Feb 21 Benghazi, Libya's second city, appears to be under the
control of rebels. The army there is reported to have gone over to the
side of the protesters. Yesterday one of Gaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam
Gaddafi, spoke on television, rambling and often repeating himself,
giving regrets that inexperienced militiamen fired on crowds. He blamed
unrest in Libya on tribal factions and Islamists. He promised reforms
and warned against civil war and the tragedy of the country's
disintegration. He said, "We will fight until the last man, until the
last woman, until the last bullet." The BBC reports senior diplomats
defecting to the side of the rebels.
Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi,
Libya's "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the
Feb 22 In addition to rebels in control in Libya's east, in
the streets of Libya's capital, Tripoli (in the west), several
neighborhoods are sealed off with makeshift barricades erected by those
hostile to Gaddafi. Meanwhile, forces wanting to defend Gaddafi's
revolution are in the streets of the capital, some of them carrying
weapons. Gaddafi makes a speech on television saying he will die a
martyr rather than quit. The speech helps him little. General Abdul
Fatah Younis, Libya's minister of interior resigns and is interviewed
by Al Arabiya. Libya's ambassador to the US, Ali Ajuali, joins at least
seven other ambassadors in quitting their post. Gaddafi's supporters
have been calling Gaddafi the "Leader and Guide of the Revolution."
Former ambassador Ajuali calls him a dictator.
Feb 24 More fighting in Libya. Gaddafi speaks on state
television and blames the revolt against his rule on Al-Qaeda and Osama
Bin Laden. He claims that protesters have been fueled by milk and
Nescafe spiked with hallucinogenic drugs.
Feb 24 King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia announces a gift of $36
billion for Bahrain. According to bizmology.com its purpose is "to ease
the economic burdens of its restive people, offering them interest-free
home loans, unemployment assistance, and debt forgiveness."
Feb 25 Anti-Gaddafi forces In eastern Libya unite and
establish their own law and order. People in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and
Iraq express solidarity with the anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya. In at
least ten cities in Iraq tens of thousands demonstrate. They demand
better government services and denounce corruption. They burn
buildings. Gaddafi speaks in Tripoli's Green Square. Referring to
himself he says that "the people love him." He adds, "We are dignity
and glory and history and struggle."
Feb 26 Gaddafi invites foreign journalists to a guided tour
of Tripoli. They see bread lines, city blocks in revolt, the government
painting over anti-Gaddafi grafiti, people afraid to talk to the press,
bodies removed to an unknown location and a doctor who alone saw more
than 68 persons killed. (New York Times)
Feb 26 In Yemen in recent days a dozen or so protesters have
died in the streets and many have been injured. The government
crackdown is not working. Anger has made the protests bigger. Today,
senior sheikhs from Yemen's main tribes (Hashid and Bakil) declare
their support for the protesters.
Feb 27 The United Nations Security Council yesterday passed
sanctions against Gaddafi and members of his family, and it voted to
refer Gaddafi to the International Criminal court. Today, anti-Gaddafi
forces seized control of the Az Zawiyah district (population around
300,000) 50 km west of Tripoli. In Tunisia, following attacks yesterday
by his police on peaceful protesters, the deaths of three and the
teargassing of shoppers, the now very unpopular prime minister,
Mohammed Ghannouchi, resigns.
Feb 28 Rebel military officers take steps to coordinate with
military officers who have tanks, anti-aircraft guns and other weapons
in Zawiyah just west of Tripoli. The military in the east controls
Libya's oil fields. Interviewed by ABC News and others, Gaddafi
"refuses to acknowledge" that there have ever been demonstrations
against him in the streets of Tripoli and denied ever having used force
against his people. "My people love me. They would die for me," he said.
Africa and the Middle East
Mar 1 A pro-Gaddafi military
force attempts to take control of the city of Az Zawfsiyah (50 kms west
of Tripoli). The force is repelled, and residents of the city have a
victory march. As they pass through the city's main square marchers
chant, "Allahu Akbar [God is Great] for our victory.'' They carry on
their shoulders an air force colonel said to have defected.
Mar 2 Gaddafi's "fight to the death" is in progress.
Anti-Gaddafi forces have repelled a Gaddafi force that arrived in
trucks and tried to take control of the oil town of Port Braga on the
eastern coast, about 160 kms south of Benghazi. Anti-Gaddafi volunteers
poured in to Braga from Benghazi. They are jubilant. Gaddafi's force,
more like mercenaries, appear less willing to fight.
Mar 2 The US Supreme Court rules that members of the Westboro
Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas have constitutional free speech
protections that give them the right to picket military funerals. (See
January 13 )
Mar 2 Islamists assassinate Pakistani Minister of Minorities
Shahbaz Bhatti, a Chrsitian. He spoke for reform of Pakistan's
blasphemy laws - which carry a sentence of death.
Mar 5 The Saudi interior ministry declares on state
television a ban on all protests and marches.
Mar 5 According to the Gallup World Poll only 6 percent of
the Chinese people consider themselves happy. Denmark leads with 82
percent. In 2010 the US was listed as tied for 14th place at 57
percent. A Chinese Communist Party official, responding perhaps to the
role of the internet in recent unrest in North Africa, has called upon
the nation's leaders to listen to the opinions of internet users to
learn what bothers and concerns them.
Mar 6 Republicans want to cut $100 billion from this year's
federal budget while a battle of ideas rages including the metaphorical
claim by Republicans that he country is "broke" and film-maker Michael
Moore claiming it is not. Moore is attacked on Fox News as an example
of Hollywood pinheadedness and dishonesty, and on Fox News he is
described by Donald Trump as having communistic thoughts.
Mar 8 Beginning yesterday, NATO is sending surveillance
aircraft over Libya. Anti-Gaddafi forces are under attack by Gaddafi's
air force. NATO wants approval from the Arab League before forcing
Gaddafi's war planes from the sky, and Arab League members are
discussing the matter. Britain and France are seeking a UN resolution
against Gaddafi employing his war planes.
Mar 10 Yemen's military has in the last two days moved
against protesters, the soldiers firing rubber bullets, real bullets
and tear gas. Yesterday, Gaddafi's military successfully pushed on
anti-Gaddafi forces, killing a reported 400 and committing brutalities
against non-combatants. In Cairo, Egypt's military forced
revolutionaries out of Tahrir Square.
Mar 11 David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times reports that
in Tripoli military officers have visited schools, warning students to
watch only state television, and offering 200 Libyan dinars (162
dollars) to attend rallies. A schoolgirl who learned English watching
movies tells a newsman that opinion among the kids is divided. A school
principal declares that all is well in Tripoli and that foreign
journalists were "telling lies, all the news are lies."
Mar 12 Yesterday Japan suffered an earthquake worse than the
8.4 Jogan quake of the year 869. Yesterday's quake was measured at 8.8
on the Richter scale. That is 180 times the power that killed over
6,000 people in Japan in 1995. And it's 1,000 times the power of a 5.8
earthquake (ten times for every one point on the scale). Yesterday's
quake is being described as a once every 1,000-year quake. Known dead
as of now is 1,700, and about 10,000 people are unaccounted for. The
tsunami that accompanied the quake took its toll. Japan has numerous
atomic energy plants (despite the special sensitivity of the Japanese
people to radiation) and a plant near the quake's epicenter has
exploded - despite Japanese diligence and backup security systems.
and neighboring states
Mar 14 Qaddafi forces continue to expand. They have overrun
and smashed Zawiyah, 30 miles west of Tripol (halfway to Zuwarah)i. In
Yemen, violence against demonstrators intensifies, including government
use of the stronger CN type of tear gas. In Bahrain, dozens are injured
as protesters push back police and they barricade roads. Troops arrive
from Saudi Arabia, requested by the government.
Mar 15 Gaddafi's offensive slows. The NYTimes reports that
some of Gaddafi's troops have refused to fire on civilians. In Bahrain,
crushing the demonstrators rather than serious reforms appears to be
the plan. The king of Bahrain (a Sunni) declares a state of emergency.
Protesters (largely Shia) barricade vital roads. Iran (a Shia nation)
complains that Saudi troops (Sunni) into Bahrain is unacceptable.
Mar 16 Well, not so slow afterall. Gaddafi forces, with
aircraft, tanks and artillery, move against the town of Ajdabyia,100
miles from the anti-Gaddafi stronghold of Benghazi, Libya's second
largest city. Meanwhile, a lot of talk in the international community
about a no-fly zone over Libya is going nowhere. Also on this day, in
Bahrain, the violent crackdown against protesters clears the
center-city square and leaves at least six people dead. Autocracy gains
but its image suffers.
Mar 17 In yesterday's New York Times, Nicholas Kristoff
complains that in Bahrain - a US ally - he has seen protesters shot at
close range, a girl clubbed to the ground writhing in pain and
ambulance workers beaten while trying to do their job. He reports that
a threatened newsman showed his passport and soldiers backed off,
saying, "We love Americans. We're not after you. We're after Shia."
Mar 17 The UN Security Council votes 10 to 0 to aid the
people of Libya with military action short of occupying Libyan
territory - Resolution #1973. China, Russia, Germany, India and Brazil
abstain. China or Russia could have killed the resolution by veto.
People in Benghazi are joyous and thankful. Earlier today, Gaddafi told
the people of Benghazi that his troops would arrive "tonight" and would
show "no mercy."
Mar 18 In the capital of Yemen, Sana'a, At least 45
anti-government protesters die and over 200 are injured from sniper
fire. Saleh declares a state of emergeny.
Mar 18 Gaddafi changes his plans and puts himself in accord
with the UN by declaring a ceasefire - "to protect civilians." Yemen
authorities continue with their bloody crackdown, shooting protesters
and killing thirty near the university in the capital, Sanaa.
Mar 18 Japan's government continues its assurances that the
radiation risk from the damaged nuclear power plant is virtually nil
beyond 20 kilometers. The nation holds a minute of silence one-week
after the earthquake and tsunami struck. Elderly people weep.
Mar 19 Gaddafi's tanks and troops enter Benghazi. Reports of
26 dead and 40 wounded. Also dead reported in Misrata. Sarkozy's
fighter planes spotted over Libya at 10:15 AM EDT. At 11:04, Sarkozy
announces that French planes are combating Gaddafi aggression. Today a
Libyan tweets: "Fed up of media saying Tripoli is where Gaddafi
supporters are. I'm from there. We hate him, hate him, 1000's died in 4
Mar 20 Coalition forces damage Gaddafi's extended supply
lines, especially his long supply line to Benghazi. They bombard and
cripple pro-Gaddafi troops and equipment near Benghazi. Gaddafi troops
are in Misrata, where fighting and dying is taking place. On
television, by telephone, Gaddafi promises to open his armed depots so
that his supporters can arm themselves. He promises a "long drawn out
war." He calls on Arab, Islamic, African, Latin American and Asian
countries to stand by Libya - extending his decades of faulty
Mar 20 From Yemen come reports of a spate of defections and
resignations from the army and diplomatic corps. In the capital,
Sana'a, rival tanks and armoured vehicles are in the streets.
Mar 21 Missile destroys command compound in Tripoli. Pro and
anti-Gaddafi forces fight in Adjabiya (just south of Benghazi). Misrata
and Zintan under attack by Gaddafi forces. (Map change may require a
page refresh.) Protesters burn buildings in Daraa, Syria. The Saleh
dictatorship in Yemen is disintegrating.
Mar 22 In the US the voluminous talk that preceded UN
Resolution 1973 continues. A few criticize President Obama for his role
in creating that resolution, arguing in effect that if we can't attack
all the bad guys at once we should attack no one. Others are afraid to
help protect people against a brutal dictator because we don't know
exactly who they are. Some have a problem with the parameters of
Resolution 1973: military action against Gaddafi's ability to employ
violence while not targeting him for death. Some argue with Gaddafi
that we have no business interfering in Libya's internal affairs -
although the UN Charter (articles 55 and 56), which Libya has signed,
says otherwise. (President Franklin D. Roosevelt would be cheering
Resolution 1973 and maybe wanting more.) A few complain that Obama's
"war" against Libya is not constitutional because it is done without
congressional approval. A few complain about money being spent by the
military. Some others in the US are grateful for the French having
sided with the American revolution - without having asked exactly who
we were - and grateful for President Sarkozy having cut through all the
talk and nervous hand-wringing and having led the world in taking
action against Gaddafi. Today in the Washington Post, columnist Anne
Applebaum praises Obama for letting Sarkozy and the British exercise
their leadership role.
Mar 23 Gaddafi appears in public before maybe one hundred
followers and says his enemies will be swept into the "dust bin of
history." Surreptitious interviews with journalists suggest that most
people in Tripoli want Gaddafi into the dust bin of history. People
there are asking for help from Obama, as are people elsewhere in Libya.
Meanwhile, some in the US (Richard Haass among them) see giving any
military help to Libyans as not in the US interest - while they believe
that it is in the US interest to be more highly thought of in the
Middle East and elsewhere.
Mar 23 A story in the press yesterday: At a bank in Tripoli,
an elderly woman got into a long line of men. A man told her she should
move to the other long line - for women. She stayed where she was and
screamed: "All the men are in Benghazi" (in other words, fighting
against Gaddafi). There was Mis immediate silence.
Mar 23 At 9 AM EDT, Allied planes to the rescue at Misrata.
Mar 23 In Yemen, President Saleh outlaws protests, a move
supported by parliament. In Deraa, Syria, at least six people die when
security forces fire on protesters outside a mosque.
Mar 24 The iodine-131 radiation in Tokyo's tap water is of
the kind that dissipates in days - with a half-life of eight days.
Government authorities declare that the radiation is in amounts small
enough that the water is safe to drink now for all but infants less
than one year old, and they call for an end to the panic that has
emptied the stores of bottled water.
Mar 24 Libya's pro-democracy fighters have formed an "interim
government" headed by Mahmoud Jibril, a Libyan with a masters degree in
political science and a doctorate in strategic planning from the
University of Pittsburg.
Mar 24 Scientists find a chemical neurotransmitter in the
brain of mice (mammals) that controls sexual preference.
Mar 24 The Cuban government has freed Jose Ferrer and Felix
Navarro, the last of the 75 imprisoned dissidents arrested eight years
Mar 25 Someone tweets: Hannity [of Fox News] blasted O[bama]
for getting us involved in Libya. Then McCain came on and said we
needed ground troops and Hannity agreed. WTF?
Mar 25 In Syria, the Assad regime, a hereditary dictatorship,
says it is considering reforms that include opening up the media,
allowing political parties and lifting an emergency law in place since
1963. The death toll from shooting protesters on the 23rd has risen to
between 15 and 51. Today protests erupt across Syria. Three reported
killed in Damascus as of 2 PM EDT.
Mar 26 In Syria , protesters burn down Baath Party
headquarters in Daraa, Tafas and Latakia. In Latakia, twelve people are
reported killed and at least 200 injured by rifle fire from rooftops.
Mar 28 Qatar is the first Arab country to recognize
Libya's anti-Gaddafi government. Anti-Gaddafi forces are stall about 80
miles east of Surt (Sirte) - Gaddafi's hometown. Their communications
and supply line is stretched and their gasoline meager. A bigger
battle, and perhaps the decisive battle, will be for Misrata maybe
later this or next week.
Mar 29 Today, President Obama's French, British and German
allies agree with his statement that the Libyan people should have "the
political space to determine their own future." Obama has said again
that the US will help the Libyan people but not with ground forces.
Some of his critics in the US want a greater use of US power and
control. This, they claim, would create "clarity." Some speak in favor
of a US invasion of Libya, a date certain for a military victory and a
withdrawal that leaves in power people they know and trust. Speaker of
the House, John Boehner, says that Obama has failed "to provide
Americans much clarity to our involvement in Libya." Boehner adds,
"Nine days into this military intervention, Americans still have no
answer to the fundamental question: what does success in Libya look
like?" Meanwhile, some who support Obama see movements for freedom and
democracy as messy, as filled with uncertainties and as the work
essentially of a people rather than of outsiders - a people whom many
Americans want to help but not control. Some who appreciate the ability
of the US to influence and support military action also recall the
mistake made in Iraq in 2003 by an over-eagerness to control.
Mar 29 In the Iraqi city of Tikrit, gunmen storm a council
building and take hostages. Security forces move in and several council
members are among the dead, reported as at least forty-one.
Mar 30 In Syria, Bashar Assad has the ruling Baath Party and
other government supporters to consider. It's a group dictatorship, as
dictatorships usually are. No man holds political power alone, and
power elites have and use their figureheads. To Syria's parliament,
Assad describes protests as a foreign plot and protesters as "dupes."
He vows to defeat the plot. Parliamentarians - Baathists - interrupt
him with declarations of support. Then he declares that reforms are
needed and that it is necessary to "listen to the voice of the people."
Meanwhile more than 60 have died in demonstrations and the government
has its supporters in the streets, some of them members of labor unions
controlled by the Baath Party.
Mar 30 In Libya, anti-Gaddafi forces have retreated in a
disorganized fashion to east of Brega. Gaddafi's forces are extending
their line and rushing into a trap, exposing themselves to air
assaults. People fighting with the Gaddafi forces are describing those
fighting against Gaddafi as rats. Reconciliation doesn't appear to be
Mar 30 Jim Hoagland, the Washington Post's senior foreign
correspondent and a measured centrist observer, describes President
Obama in the past month as having "adeptly balanced diplomacy and the
use of force." He writes: "President Obama's military intervention in
Libya reflects the hard times in which he governs. He is recalibrating
American power in a world where a financially weakened, politically
polarized United States no longer commands but can still lead - if with
a lighter touch."
Mar 31 The UN asks Japan to consider expanding the evacuation
zone around the Fukushima nuclear reactors from a radius of 20
kilometers to 40 kilometers - beyond which, it claims, safe radiation
limits exist. Radioactive iodine levels in seawater near the plant are
reported to be 4,385 times the legal limit. The nuclear plant operators
have announced that four of the five problem nuclear reactors will be
Mar 31 Concerning Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab, president of the
Bahrain Center for Human Rights, says of government forces: "The last
few nights they have been raiding houses and beating and arresting
people." He adds that approximately 400 people are either missing or in
Apr 1 Japan's government continues to monitor radiation
levels, and despite new radiation data it says it has no plans to widen
the evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 atomic power
plant. Yesterday the level of radioactive iodine-131 in seawater near
the plant was measured at 4,385 times the maximum tolerable level. This
is iodine-131 radiation, which has a half-life of eight days.
Concentrations of cesium 137 radiation are also leaking from the plant,
and experts say that releases from the plant could continue for months.
Meanwhile the increase in radiation that has appeared in milk in the
United States is said to be within the tolerable radiation levels that
people are continuously exposed to every day.
Apr 1 The Arab League declares its support for anti-Gaddafi
forces in Libya. Qatar agrees to market oil from anti-Gaddafi eastern
Libya. A Facebook page titled "Support Muammar al Gaddafi from the
people of Serbia" has attracted more than 65,000 supporters. Their
yardstick for measuring the conflict in Libya appears to be their
dislike for the NATO air campaign that they experienced in 1999.
Map of Syria
Apr 1 It's Friday, with huge protest demonstrations across
Yemen and Syria In Syria people again are shouting for "freedom." Four
demonstrators are reported dead after security forces fired upon
demonstrators in a Damascus suburb.
Apr 2 In northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e Sharif, some
join those Muslims who have yet to come to terms with the fact that
some people in the world dislike their religion - as people with
grown-up attitudes elsewhere have. Yesterday a crowd of a thousand or
so Muslims, outraged after being told by an imam in a Friday sermon
about the burning of a Koran by a pastor in the United States a month
ago, stormed a UN compound and killed at least 7 UN workers. The
not-so-grown-up American pastor, the imam and his murderous mob all
believed they were combating evil.
Apr 2 Today in Kandahar a crowd surged through the streets
chanting "They have insulted our Koran." They were only a few people
around one pastor largely disrespected in the United States, but the
crowd extended they to the whole of the United States with the words
"Death to America." The crowd rampaged and nine people died.
Apr 2 Seven New York Times reporters speak of their ordeal
while captives of Gaddafi forces. In the back of a pickup truck in the
city of Surt they were exposed to people who attacked them physically
and called them Al Qaeda and dogs - more of the small-minded passionate
demonization common to conflicts. Surt is Gaddafi's hometown and
reported to be largely pro-Gaddafi. And what's with the disrespect for
Apr 3 Norman Benotman, Libya's former al-Qaeda associate of
bin Laden, tells Fareed Zakaria of CNN that al-Qaeda and jihadists on
the anti-Gaddafi side in Libya are "insignificant." They are there of
course, he says, and anti-Qaddafi, but they are not organized into a
coherent group and will not give direction to the anti-Gaddafi
movement. The anti-Gaddafi movement, he says, is led and supported by
men with an agenda that is friendly to the West and "based on a free
democratic society." Meanwhile a few people (Richard Haaas among them)
are looking for a ceasefire in Libya that works, for negotiations and
for the Gaddafi regime to transform itself - again - in order to
survive. Others insist that Gaddafi must go.
Apr 3 In the Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), the results of an
election for president in late November is being decided by a civil
war. The United Nations has declared the challenger, Alassane Ouattara,
the winner. The incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, has refused to leave and has
ordered UN peace keepers out of the country. Forces supporting Ouattara
have swept down from the north and surround Gdagbo's forces around the
city of Abidjan - on the coast in the south. According to the UN,
almost 500 people have been killed and a million have fled their homes.
Gbagbo is a former history teacher who fought and was imprisoned for
the sake of democracy. Ouattara acquired a doctorate in economics in
1972 from the University of Pennsylvania.
Apr 4 According to the Norway Post, the number of offences
reported to the police in Norway is lowest in 20 years. One in five of
those offenses occurs in the capital, Oslo, which has one-tenth of
Norway's population. Norway enjoys less crime than most countries.
Statistics held by the UN for the years 1998-2000 has Norway at 2.6
criminal prosecutions per 1,000 population compared to 48 per 1,000 for
the US, 11.5 for Canada, 6.8 for Germany and 1.1 per 1,000 for Japan.
(Stats available at Nationmaster.com)
Apr 4 A Turkish hospital ship rescues 250 injured people from
the besieged city of Misrata and takes them to the anti-Gaddafi city of
Apr 5 Qatar's English daily, the Peninsula,
describes an increase in speculation in the oil futures market. Among
the players are Barkleys, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. They are
"leading the charge into oil but, in addition, several secretive hedge
funds are now wagering hundreds of millions of dollars every day in the
oil market and reaping the dividends." More speculators in the market
are driving up the price of oil futures, and the rulers of oil
exporting countries, perhaps Qatar but definitely Saudi Arabia, dislike
being blamed for rises in oil prices.
Apr 5 Around 250 students demonstrating at Kabul University
in Afghanistan shout "Death to America," regarding the burning of a
Koran. They are angry about disrespect for Islam while feeding that
disrespect and the argument that Islam is a religion that encourages
Apr 6 Photos found by journalists in a burned-out police
station in Zawiyah (50 km west of Tripoli) show death and torture of
persons detained. (Reported by the New York Times.) Gaddafi's son,
Saif, has portrayed himself as anti-torture.
Apr 6 The violence in Yemen continues. Eighteen are reported
killed since the day before yesterday. Today, fighting is reported
between tribesmen loyal to President Saleh and soldiers on the side of
Apr 7 At the OPEC meeting in Paris, the United Arab Emirates
oil minister, al-Hamli, claims that oil prices have been rising because
of speculators rather than any shortage of supply.
Apr 8 Tea Party Republicans in Washington DC have
been saying that elections in 2010 made them the representatives of
"the people" and that they will pursue the people's agenda. President
Obama and other Democrats in government represent the opinions of
enough people to argue that compromise is in order to keep the
government doing its business. The Democrats have agreed to the
Republican proposal to cut $33 billion from the federal budget, but the
Republicans have upped that to $61 billion and insist on cutting social
programs they dislike. If an agreement is not made by the end of today
the government will shut down. 9:15 PM EDT, no deal yet, and Michele
Bachmann, Tea Party congresswoman, tells Wolf Bltizer of CNN she will
not vote for a compromise deal that keeps Obama care. At 11PM, an
agreement is made - ignoring social issues for now - to cut $38 billion
from spending for the year to September 30.
Apr 10 In Bahrain, Shia are being described by defenders of
the status quo as lazy, ungrateful, sexually odious and as traitors
lacking intelligence and education. The Shia are also accused of having
conspired with Americans to kill Saddam Hussein (a Sunni) and take over
Apr 11 Reports on Bahrain describe a brutally repressive
regime that has turned the country into an island of fear
Apr 12 The United Arab Emirates joins Bahrain and Syria in
oppression. It has arrested activists whose only crime has been calling
Apr 12 In the Ivory Coast yesterday, former President Gbagbo
was arrested by French forces working with the United Nations. Gbagbo
created an insurrection against the election of his successor, Alassane
Ouattara. Gbagbo was slow to recognize defeat, and some are still
fighting on his behalf. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has
announced her support of Gbagbo's arrest.
Apr 12 China's ministry of health takes moves to curb the
overuse of antibiotics that is contributing to evolving micro-organism
immunity to medicine. According to China Daily, 80 percent of
antibiotics being used in mainland China are "unnecessary." The charge
is being made that some of the overuse is encouraged by monetary profit.
Apr 13 In Syria, hundreds have been arrested, and troops
continue to encircle the city of Baniyas. There, four people wree shot
and killed on the weekend, and 28 people were killed on Friday (the
8th) in Daraa. Witnesses have told al-Jazeera that soldiers have been
shot for refusing to fire on protesters - while the government
complains that its soldiers have been fired upon. But mass defections
by soldiers appear unlikely, as does the rise of urban guerrilla
armies. Non-violent protests appear powerless, and oppression appears
to be the future for Syria.
Apr 13 Mme butterfly1 offers a variety of sources on
interesting developments in Libya, including "Gaddafi's Men Shooting
Down Balloons in Tripoli
Apr 14 In Japan, the nuclear crisis has been upgraded to
level-7 radiation risk. As stated in an Associated Press article in the
Japan Times today, Japan's crisis in not as bad as Chernobyl because it
is slower moving. According to the Japanese government, Fukushima's
radiation leaks are still one-tenth of those released by Chernobyl. The
heaviest radiation leaks at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex
occurred in the first days of the crisis. An article at Nature.com:
"How Fukushima is and isn't like Chernobyl
Apr 15 In the US the argument exists that taxes on the
wealthy should not be raised even a tiny bit in order to keep US
companies competitive. Meanwhile, Sweden's knowledge-intensive
industries, taking advantage of the country's advanced technological
development, sophisticated infrastructure and high general educational
level, is competing well, thank you, despite high personal taxes.
Personal taxes are higher also in Norway and Germany than they are in
the United States, and their companies are also competing well.
Corporate taxes are something else. Corporate tax rates differ only
slightly in these countries, with Sweden and Norway at 28% and Germany
at 25%. The US corporate tax rate is higher. The liberal economist
Laura Tyson has written that "In today's world of mobile capital,
increasing the corporate tax rate would be a bad way to generate
revenues for deficit reduction." But raising personal income taxes on
the wealthy is something else.
Apr 17 In Yemen, for the second day, thousands of Yemeni
march against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's claim that women
protesting against his regime were violating Islamic prohibitions
against women mixing with men who are not direct relatives. He told the
women to stay home. Also today, in the capital city the army fires
again on anti-government protesters. Ten are reported injured.
Apr 17 In Syria more widespread protests and three more
reported shot and killed - while President Assad tries to apply a
little of the liberalism he acquired from the British, including his
Apr 17 In Cuba at a Communist Party congress, President Raul
Castro proposes term limits in an effort to advance politics and Cuba's
Communist Party The limits he says would also apply to him.
Apr 18 Representative Joe Walsh from Illinois repeated what
has become a Republican credo. Yesterday he could be seen on ABC's This
Week stating:. "Every time we cut taxes, revenues have gone up.
President Obama claims this is not true. Others point out that the
credo is patently false and qualifies as unexamined dogma. The well
known economist Nouriel Roubini calls it a religion. Talk show
commentator Rush Limbaugh, whom some describe as the Republican Party's
intellectual guide, sides with Joe Walsh and has been hammering away on
the issue for months - along with describing progressive taxation
(against the wealthy) as robbing working people and subsidizing the
Apr 18 Britain has a budget problem greater than the United
States. Conservative members of parliament complain about the Labour
Party budget adding to the national debt - which has been worse in
Britain than in the United States. Jobs in Britain is also an issue,
but conservatives there are different from conservatives in the United
States. No British equivalent to Rush Limbaugh exists. British
conservatives still talk of keeping taxes down but talk also of
promoting economic growth and jobs by investments, including investing
in housing to help families get on the housing ladder. Meanwhile,
Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, continues to fight for a
balanced budget and has ruled out tax cuts to that end.
Apr 18 In the US many working poor are trapped into giving a
lot of rent money to landlords rather than putting that money into a
mortgage on their own home - despite low mortgage rates and home prices
Apr 19 Syria lifts the emergency law that has been in place
for 48 years. Peaceful protests are now to be allowed and arbitrary
detentions - arrests without a charge - are supposed to end. Early this
morning in the city of Homs thousands of demonstrators sitting-in at
the city square were fired upon and dispersed. They have been accused
of participating in armed insurrection....... 2:30 PM EDT, regime
hypocrisy as one hand giveth and the other taketh away: The interior
minister calls on people "to refrain from taking part in all marches,
demonstrations or sit-ins under any banner whatsoever." He warns that
if demonstrations are held, "the laws in force in Syria will be applied
in the interest of the safety of the people and the stability of the
Apr 20 In Syria, the tactic of appeasing the demonstrators by
ending the emergency laws is failing to give people the sense that they
have won something. Syrian authorities are not that talented
politically - as they continue their oppression. Today in Homs the
regime arrests a protest leader, Mahmoud Issa. Homs is still mourning
its dead, and it is preparing for a three-day strike.
Apr 21 In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan addresses the
nation and speaks against "horrific acts" that killed and maimed
innocent citizens. "They set ablaze business premises, private homes
and even places of worship," he said. Jonathan is a southerner and a
Christian. The tradition has been to rotate between a Christian
president and a Muslim president and Jonathan had served as president
since February 2010, elevated from the vice-presidency after the
illness and death of the Muslim president. Jonathan and those giving
him a winning margin in the election last week believe that he deserves
a full term before the next rotation. In north of the country, where
Muslims dominate, some chose to express their lack of generosity on the
election issue by resorting to rampage. The Red Cross estimates that
48,000 people have fled from the violence.
Apr 22 The request has been made that Syria's government show its good
intentions by allowing protests to proceed without violent repression.
Following Friday prayers, demonstrations again erupt across Syria and
government goon squads in various cities again shoot at protesters.
Later today: 88 reported killed. (Murderous authoritarianism was
defeated in Europe decades ago. It still thrives in the Middle East.)
Apr 25 Yesterday on CNN, Paul O'Neill, US Secretary of the
Treasury in 2001 and 2002, told Fareed Zakaria that we should "get rid
of individual income taxes and corporate income taxes and payroll taxes
and replace it all with a value-added tax." This is a tax on
consumption. Rich people buying things rather than investing would be
paying their share of taxes. They buy more, they pay more. O'Neilll
claims that "It would no longer make any sense for lobbyists to go to
Washington to lobby for beneficial things for their interest groups in
the tax code." Right now, he adds, hundreds of billions would be saved
that goes to administer the present system that misses hundreds of
billions more because the present tax code is "incomprehensible and
Apr 25 In Syria, tanks roll into Daraa. More people die.
Around the world are people who are outraged. Tweets on Syria jump to
Apr 26 The Assad regime claims that its army was invited to
Daraa by citizens to hunt "extremist terrorist groups." Rather than a
careful police operation, eight tanks and a claim of between 4,000 and
6,000 troops came to the town of 70,000 before dawn. Writes Anthony
Shadid of the New York Times: "Water, electricity and phone lines were
cut, making firsthand accounts difficult and the numbers impossible to
verify, and nearby border crossings with Jordan were reported sealed.
Snipers took positions on the roofs of mosques, residents said, and a
mix of soldiers and armed irregular forces went house to house to
search for protesters."
Apr 27 What, me intolerant of criticism? Malawi orders
Britain's high commissioner out of the country for saying in private
that President Bigu wa Mutharika does not tolerate criticism.
Apr 27 A scientific study declares what should be obvious:
that a low IQ score could be the result of low motivation, low
intelligence or both. The study finds that Incentives increase IQ
scores - not that kids taking SAT tests lack motivation. That sweet
passivity and lack of cognitive aggressiveness might account for some
girls not being as bright as they could be appears not to have been
Apr 28 Posturing against "outside interference" in Syria,
yesterday Russia and China stopped a Security Council resolution
condemning Syria's violence against peaceful protesters. The US,
France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal expressed their
outrage at Syria's crackdown.
Apr 29 Robert Kagan criticizes "pragmatists" and complains
that "The Muslim Brotherhood is the strongest political force in Egypt
today because Mubarak crushed the moderate, secular opposition. And we
Apr 29 Today is Friday and a "Day of Rage" in Syria. Syria's
exiled Muslim Brotherhood calls on Syrians with the words, "You were
born free, so don't let the tyrant enslave you." Across Syria,
government forces kill at least sixty-two.
Apr 29 England is jolly, as is the entire United Kingdom and
Commonwealth, as Prince William of Wales marries Catherine Middleton.
Apr 30 The US dollar drops in value and therefore gasoline
costs more in the United States. The dollar has declined for eight
consecutive days. Investors are chasing higher returns. The economist
Stephen King tells Bloomberg news: "If the Fed is keeping rates very,
very low for a long period of time, it just makes the dollar less and
May 1 Osama bin Laden is shot dead in a raid by US Navy Seals
and his body buried at sea - the end of the war he declared against the
United States in 1996. Bin Laden was fifty-four.
May 2 Lara Logan, 40 years-old and a 60 Minutes
correspondent, breaks her silence on her ordeal in Egypt on the night
of celebration over Mubarak's resignation, in early February. After her
crew's camera battery "went down" someone said, "Let's take her pants
off." Young men started grabbing at her. Then someone shouted that she
was an Israeli, a Jew and the "assault turned into a murderous fury."
Dragged along the ground, pummeled, beaten, naked and her muscles torn,
after something like 20 minutes the mob ran into a fence and into some
Egyptian women. A woman dressed head to toe in black, with only her
eyes showing, threw herself onto Logan as protection. Logan: "And oh my
God, I can't tell you what that moment was like for me. I wasn't safe
yet, because the mob was still trying to get at me. But now it wasn't
just about me anymore. It was about their women and that was what saved
me, I think."
May 3 In Canada's elections yesterday, the Conservative
Party, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, won a majority of seats in
parliament: 167. The New Democratic Party (NDP) climbs to second place
with 102 seats, and the Liberals fall to third place with 34. Seats for
the French separatist party, Bloc Quebecois, drop from 47 to 4. In the
election campaigning, Prime Minister Harper made no promise to change
course by abolishing Canada's national health system. Harper is talking
about lowering taxes, but his tax policies have been high enough to put
Canada's revenues for the year 2010 at 45.8% of its GDP (above
Australia and just below Germany) compared to 14% for the United States.
May 4 In wake of the discovery of where Bin Laden had been
hiding, India's government expresses concern that perpetrators of the
horrific attacks in the city of Mumbai in November 2008 "continue to be
sheltered" in Pakistan. And in the US Senate, relations with Pakistan
is being questioned.
May 4 Among the people who welcome the passing of Bin Laden,
expressed at arabnews.com, a dissenter suggests that the US is
controlling the world with a power that is Satanic. He complains that
Bin Laden was a hero "until he started disobeying the masters (USA)."
He asks, "What kind of memory people have these days?" In the US,
meanwhile, an awareness of the limits of US power has been growing, and
that awareness is not diminished by the killing of Bin Laden. What has
increased are calls to get out of Afghanistan sooner.
May 5 UN human rights chief Navi Pillay accuses Bahrain of
not maintaining its international human rights obligations. She
describes as "absolutely unacceptable" death sentences imposed by
military courts in Bahrain as well as military trials for civilian
activists. Bahraini authorities are putting 47 doctors and nurses on
trial in a mililtary court, accusing the doctors and nurses of having
taken part in anti-regime protests while treating the injured.
May 5 In Egypt, President Mubarak's notorious former security
chief, Habib al-Adly, is sentenced to twelve years in jail on charges
of money-laundering and profiteering.
May 5 Twitter again demonstrates its capabilities. Shortly
before the assault on Bin Laden, a tweet by Sohaib Athar from
Abbottabad, Pakistan, told the world that a helicopter was hovering
overhead and that it might not be a Pakistani aircraft.
May 6 It's Friday protest day in several cities in Syria. Six
people are reported shot: five in Homs and one in Hama.
May 6 Brazil's Supreme Court rules in favor of legal rights
for persons in homosexual unions the same rights as those for married
May 6 In Russia, Nikita Tikhonov is declared guilty of having
murdered a journalist and a lawyer. The murdered journalist, Anastasia
Baburova, was writing articles that super-patriots like Tikhonov
May 7 Dr Alia Brahimi, of Oxford and other universities,
writes in Al Jazeera that with the death of Bin Laden, al-Qaeda will
continue its "descent into nihilistic chaos," dividing into little
groupings that will annoy Muslim majorities. She writes that Bin
Laden's focus of purpose - defending Islam against the West, however
delusional - will dissipate further. She describes al-Qaeda as its own
worst enemy, suggesting that Muslims will play a significant role in
the demise of a movement.
May 9 Britain to release papers revealing a "guilty secret"
about the use of torture against Kenyan rebels during their
independence uprising of 1952-59.
May 10 Some people to the right-of-center are celebrating
enhanced interrogation (torture), believing that Bin Laden would not or
could not have been found without it. And they are criticizing
President Obama for not celebrating it as vehemently as they. Some are
asking why "enhanced interrogation" is worse than shooting Bin Laden in
the head - despite the US having a history of killing the enemy in
warfare but not approving the use of torture in warfare.
May 10 At the Washington Post, Richard Cohen writes
of "The Myth of American Exceptionalism." He describes it as part of a
"culture of smugness" that holds to the notion that the US alone among
nations "is beloved of God" - as if God takes an interest in
international political boundaries. Cohen faults various leading
Republicans for invoking this brand of exceptionalism.
May 10 Despite NATO airpower, the siege of Misrata, Libya's
third largest city, continues. Fighting there has been taking place
since late February. A tenuous life-line for the city remains from its
May 11 A turning point in Libya: Qaddafi's forces have been
ousted from Misrata's airport, opening another link to the outside
May 12 US Senator John McCain, describes waterboarding
interrogations as torture and says, "As such, they are prohibited by
American laws and values, and I oppose them." He adds that CIA Director
Leon Panetta told him the following: "The trail to bin Laden did not
begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was
waterboarded 183 times."
May 12 Argentine authorities have arrested three former
policemen accused of having participated in throwing a nun, Leonie
Duque, and a rights activist, Azucena Villaflor, from an airplane over
the ocean in 1977. The military dictatorship under Jorge Videla wanted
Argentina protected from these two peaceful political opponents. Writes
the BBC: "Hundreds of political prisoners are known to have died this
May 13 It is Friday and people are in the streets in Syria,
raising their arms and fists and chanting. The dictator Assad has
mustered his generosity and announced that there will be no shooting at
demonstrators and that anybody who does will be severely punished.
Three are reported dead in the city of Homs, where security forces
opened fire on demonstrators. No reports, meanwhile, of protests today
in Bahrain. Al Jazeera describes the Bahraini government as having
destroyed 28 mosques and Shia religious instituions since the crackdown
on Shia-led protests began in Mid-March. Bahrain's Justice Ministry
announces that the mosques were torn down because they were not
May 14 Syrian officials announce that troops and tanks are
being pulled out of the cities of Baniyas and Daraa. Dictatorships need
at least a cowed and cooperative populace, and after having failed to
achieve this by military force and having created more intense
hostility toward it, the Assad regime tries another move. It announces
that next week a "comprehensive national dialogue" will begin in all
May 16 The International Criminal Court is seeking the arrest
of Muammar Gaddafi and two others for crimes against humanity.
Gaddafi's deputy Foreign Minister, Khalid Kaim, has responded with the
announcement that Libya does not recognise that court's jurisdiction -
like most African countries and the United States.
May 16 In Zurich, Switzerland, approximately 85% of votes
cast oppose a proposed ban on assisted suicide, and 78% oppose
forbidding the service to foreigners.
May 17 In Pakistan, the Saudi embassy has been attacked by
grenades and an employee of the embassy has been shot to death while
driving his car. Al-Qaeda is known to be hostile to Saudi Arabia and on
a rampage against the death of Osama bin Laden. Saudis are describing
Pakistan as a chaotic country. A Saudi complains that, "Many more will
be killed by the extremists in the name of religion." Another describes
Pakistan as "the most dangerous place on earth" and is "sitting on a
live bomb ready to explode any time." Meanwhile, Pakistan's parliament
has condemned the US attack on Bin Laden and drone incursions into
Pakistan and is reviewing its relationship with the United States. And
Pakistan's prime minister hails China as his country's "best and most
May 18 In Uganda, rights groups criticize the police
crackdown on protests. At least nine people have been killed. Ugandan
journalists have been arrested and denied bail. President Yoweri
Museveni criticizes the BBC and Al-Jazeera for inciting the protests.
Museveni has been president since early 1986. In the 1990s he was
lauded as one of a new generation of African leaders. In February he
was re-elected with 68% of the vote. His opponent in that election, Dr
Besigye, was one of the injured protesters. Museveni claims that he had
"violently resisted arrest." Dr Besigye says he was cheated in
May 19 In Syria, President Assad says that his security
services made some mistakes in handling demonstrations and that the
"crisis" is over. The United States puts santions on Assad and six
other senior Syrian officials - a symbolic move because these people
have no assets in the United States. The Assad regime describes the
sanctions as "serving Israeli interests."
May 19 In Misrata it's been three days since a bombardment by
Gaddafi forces have hit the city. City defenders have pushed Gaddafi
forces out of range. Supplies are arriving from Benghazi. The city is
in a celebratory mood and congratulating their grinning armed fighters.
In the east, meanwhile, anti-Gaddafi forces are gathering to move
westward to Brega.
May 20 Research in the United States by evolutionary theorist
Michale Lynch of Indiana University working with Ariel Fernandez of the
University of Chicago finds a form of biological change heretofore
unknown. This change takes place in proteins within a cell - in a
region called dehydrons that becomes unstable in a watery environment.
With this instability, "sticky" proteins are more likely to work
together in building more complex networks of gene and protein
May 20 President Obama announces support for transitions to
democracy in the Middle East. He scolds Bahrain and Syria's Bashar
Assad and calls for a settlement with the Palestinians that includes
land swaps and a return to 1967 borders. Israel's president, Netanhayu,
is reported to be furious. Some Arabs see Obama's announcement as weak
and ask why he does not support a UN resolution to that effect and
against Israeli expansions - a move by Obama that would be counter to
his declaration of friendship with Israel. Meanwhile it's Friday: more
demonstrations in Syria and more deaths.
May 21 The report is out on the mine explosion that trapped
and killed twenty-nine coal miners in West Virginia in April, 2010. The
report faulted the mine owner, Massey Energy corporation, and found the
US Mine Safety and Health Administration lax in its oversight and that
it "failed its duty as the watchdog for coal miners." (Reported in
detail on the News Hour on May 19, 2010)
May 23 The Australian Climate Commission complains that
climate science is being attacked in the media by people with no
credentials in the field - people questioning that human emissions are
causing global warming. Australia is one of the highest per capita
carbon emitters, and the government seeks public support for its
proposed carbon tax.
May 23 In Spain, young leftist radicals, conservatives and
others, including Basque and perhaps Catalan nationalists, are blaming
Prime Minister Zapatero's "socialist" People's Party for three-years of
economic crisis and 21% unemployment. In yesterday's parliamentary
elections the People's Party suffered a substantial defeat. Zapatero
has been pursuing unpopular austerity measures to combat Spain's debt
problem, and his party's loss causes credit worries and Spanish bonds
May 24 Geometric logic is believed by some to have been a
Western invention. A study of a tribe in the Amazon, the Mundurucu,
reveals an intelligence about lines, points and angles on a plane and a
spherical surface that is no less than that of French and US school
May 24 Syria's foreign minister describes the European
Union's sanctions against the murderous dictator Bashar Assad as
harmful to the Syrian people and as "a black page to their [Europe's]
record of colonialism in the region." (French colonialism in Syria
ended in 1946.)
May 25 Evangelical broadcaster, Harold Camping, postpones the
Apocalypse date to October 21. He explains that it didn't come on the
21st of this month because he "miscalculated," suggesting a math
problem rather than the usual misuse of metaphor and analogy. He says
it has now "dawned" on him that God would spare humanity "hell on Earth
for five months." Obviously he still believes that he can know God's
mind - an ability claimed by many around the world, including some
casting scorn upon him.
May 26 Another super-nationalist hater meets his
come-uppance. The fugitive former Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladic,
is arrested in Serbia. He hated the Ottoman Turk 500-year occupation of
Serbia. That ended in the 1800s. But Mladic failed to let go of the
past and despised Bosnian Muslims as Turks for their progenitors having
converted to Islam. General Mladic is now on his way to the
International Criminal Tribunal in the Netherlands where he faces the
charge of massacring at least 7,500 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at
Srebrenica in 1995.
May 27 A planned protest packs Cairo's Tahrir square for "a
Day of Anger." Protesters say they want a faster pace of democratic
reforms, and there are expressions of fear that former president
Mubarak and his family will be pardoned.
May 28 In Syria, eight more protesters are reported as having
been shot and killed yesterday. Also yesterday a few hundred more were
born than died, and a few hundred young people grew old enough for
political action. A broad section of the public will continue to hate
the Assad regime. Even authoritarians need broad support - church
authoritarians and political authoritarians. Genghis Khan had the
support of his fellow Mongols, and people centuries ago believed in
their monarch and looked to him or her for help. Bashar Assad will
never be able to rule without brutality. You are watching the Assad
family destroy itself.
May 29 Computers and automation have eliminated a lot of jobs
for Americans. So too have companies sending jobs overseas. A lot of
recent college grads are unemployed or not working at a job that has
anything to do with a college education. Many people can only find
part-time work. A not uncommon ideological response to under-employment
could be seen a couple of days ago expressed by Dennis Miller on Bill
O'Reilly's "No Spin Zone." Miller thinks that the government is taking
too much of his money. He repeated his mantra: "Help the helpless;
forget the clueless." He proclaimed a Darwinian survival of the fittest
solution to unemployment. O'Reilly appeared delighted. In 2008, Miller
looked for a presidential candidate, gathered his clues and supported
May 31 Civil war continues in Yemen. More than 50 killed
during demonstrations in the city of Taiz after protest leaders warn
followers not to "fall into the trap of violence."
May 31 Social change continues in Saudi Arabia as authorities
release Manal Al-Sharif, 32, jailed on May 21 for violating the ban on
women driving cars.
May 31 In Greece, conservative political leader Antonis
Samaras has said that the government's new austerity plan would
"flatten the Greek economy and destroy Greek society". The prime
minister, Papandreou, a socialist, has been trying to gain a
cross-party agreement for further spending cuts. Despite this, reports
that Germany will make concessions to facilitate a new aid package for
Greece sends the euro up against the dollar, which makes oil higher in
the United States.
Jun 1 In the US many believe, as Thomas Jefferson did, that
if anyone takes away their existing political freedom they have the
right to take up arms. Two days ago, Syrians picked up weapons in an
attempt to repel advancing government troops on their towns.
Jun 1 Yesterday in Syria, Assad declared general amnesty a general
pardon for "crimes" committed before 31 May.
Jun 1 Libya's Colonel Gaddafi says he wants a ceasefire that
would stop all hostilities and that "all Libyans be given a chance to
talk among themselves" to determine the country's future. Opposition
leaders reject Gaddafi's offer.
Jun 2 Comedic relief from Stephen Colbert jokes about Harold
Camping predicting the end of the world: "Camping used the most precise
method available: taking numbers at random from a 400 year-old English
translation from a group of tendentiously related ancient Middle
Eastern texts transcribed from Greek, Aramaic oral histories."
(Broadcast May 31.)
Jun 2 In Yemen yesterday dozens more were killed, and today
the fighting intensifies. Behind this is President Saleh's refusal to
sign an agreement to step down because he wants his departure
accompanied by the departure of the three sons of a political opponent,
Sheikh al-Ahmar. An analyst quoted by the BBC, claims: "It is offensive
to President Saleh that his relatives will leave and the opponents will
Jun 4 The BBC reports this morning that more than sixty
people were killed yesterday, Friday, in the city of Hama - another day
of protests across Syria. State television claimed that about eighty
security personnel had been wounded. Yesterday there was no internet in
Syria. And foreign journalists are still not allowed in the country.
Jun 4 Yesterday in the US, in response to news of a "sharp
slowdown in hiring and a small increase in the unemployment rate,"
Speaker of the House John Boehner addressed the employment issue,
saying: "We can't raise taxes on the very people who create jobs..."
Some who dislike Boehner's economics complain that big corporations,
rather than short of money to invest, are sitting on piles of cash and
have been sending money abroad.
Jun 5 President Obama has called for a crackdown
against people who hire illegals - to remove incentives for the
illegals to come to the United States and to create more jobs for US
citizens. Republicans in Congress speak of employment as the foremost
issue but balk at joining Obama and Congressional Democrats in moving
now on immigration reform.
Jun 6 Yesterday In the town of Jisr al-Shughour
government troops and tanks were in action and there are reports of
more than 35 deaths, including at least six policemen. According to the
BBC, state TV "showed pictures of burned-out public buildings, police
stations and vehicles in Jisr al-Shughour."
Jun 7 Japan's nuclear safety agency has announced that more than twice
as much radiation leaked from its Fukushima nuclear plants than had
been estimated during the crises of March, April and May. The agency
added that meltdowns had taken place in three reactors more quickly
than had been realized and that the plant is still leaking radiation.
More evacuations are being considered from areas beyond the 12-mile
radius that has been evacuated.
Jun 7 Nathan Myhrvold, one of the sharpest minds on
technology, talked on the 5th with Fareed Zakaria about Japan's nuclear
power plant crisis. Of the 1960s-built Fukushima plants he said that
they "never should have had those generators as low as they did." (The
generators were flooded by invading sea water.) He spoke of superior
engineering today, including superior generators, and he mentioned an
ability to use nuclear waste "to run the whole US economy for more than
100 years just on stuff we've already dug up." He doesn't like public
panic or the US giving up on nuclear energy - the way that the Germans
appear to be doing.
Jun 8 Syrian authorities describe "armed gangs" as
responsible for killing more than 120 security personnel three days ago
at Jisr al-Shughur. Syrian "activists" say that the security personnel
were shot by government troops after they refused to open fire on
civilians. Protest leaders in Jisr al-Shughur have denied that those
opposed to the Assad regime there have committed any violence. No
protest leaders in Syria are publicly suggesting that violence will
have to be a part of ending the Assad regime - by freedom fighters
rather than terrorists as described by the regime.
Jun 8 Armed men have cleared Gaddafi forces from the town of
Yafran (population 67,000) 66 miles southwest of Tripoli. In May,
Gaddafi forces shut off the water system there and were blocking food
Jun 9 Al Qaeda's number-two leader, Ayman Zawahiri, speaks
fantasy about Osama bin Laden terrifying the US in death. Rather than
being terrified, more people in the US are concluding that it is best
to let people in North Africa and the Middle East deal with al-Qaeda as
they please. Al-Qaeda types have been described recently as having a
fading interest in winning politically by blowing up Westerners. This
fade is expected to increase with the withdrawal of forces from
Afghanistan and Iraq this year. In the US more people look for defense
against terrorism short of committing long-standing military units
Jun 10 US Democratic Senator Jim Webb complains that our
strategy in Afghanistan of securing an area and moving on is not
working because the areas do not stay secured. Republican Senator
Richard Lugar says "Despite ten years of investment and attempts to
better understand the culture and the region's actors, we remain in a
cycle that produces relative progress, but fails to deliver a secure
political or military resolution." President Obama's new ambassador to
Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, awaiting confirmation, has a different view.
He is among those still terrified by bin Laden. He says that "much work
remains to be done to ensure that al-Qaida can never again threaten us
from Afghanistan, with the Taliban providing safe haven."
Jun 11 Turkey's prime minister condemns Syria's crackdown on
anti-government protesters as "inhumane'' and says Ankara could support
a UN resolution against Syria. The foreign minister of Syria resorts to
the Orwellian language, complaining that any action the UN Security
Council takes against his country would embolden "extremists and
terrorists" to continue their crimes. Yesterday (Friday), protests
continued across Syria, and the Assad regime, using attack helicopters,
killed 25 more people.
Jun 12 The FBI's most wanted al-Qaeda militant in Africa,
Fazul Abdullah Mohammad, was been shot dead a few days ago at a
government checkpoint in Somalia. He is believed to have played a key
role in the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and in
attacking Israeli targets in Kenya in 2002. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton describes his death as "a significant blow" to al-Qaeda.
Jun 13 Yesterday in Syria a most trusted force, the Fourth
Brigade, with helicopter gunships and as many as 200 tanks took control
of Jisr al-Shughour. The story of Jisr al-Shughour is still being
described: On the 5th of this month an army of conscripts sent against
the city had defections; some of the defectors were killed; others fled
into the hills; and most town folk have fled the city. Yesterday, an
anti-Assad force remained and confronted the overwhelmingly superior
government force - a violation of the first rule in insurgent warfare.
Apparently they were annihilated.
Jun 14 Among Republican presidential candidates in the US the
talk continues about the need to create jobs and how Obama is ruining
the economy. There has been some support among Republican legislators
for a bill that would invest in infrastructure and job creation through
an "infrastructure bank" that, in the words of columnist E.J. Dionne,
"would bring private as well as government money to public works
projects and make them less subject to political earmarking." Another
columnist, Fareed Zakaria, says that it "would add very little to the
deficit" and would put more people to work and paying taxes. Senator
Kay Bailey Hutchison and Chuck Hagel are two Republicans strongly in
favor of the bill. But enough Republicans are against the bill to block
its passage. They are sticking to their opposition against anything
that can be called stimulus (nevermind investment) spending. Yesterday,
in the Washington Post, Dionne suggests that they also don't want to
help Obama look good. The title of Dionne's column is "Gridlocking the
lives of the jobless."
Jun 14 Someone (aka Vmidurk) responds to Dionne's column by
pointing out that under President Bush the average unemployment rate
(for 8 years) was 5.3% and with Obama the average unemployment rate (in
2 years and 5 months) has been 9.4%. A little thing like the US having
to dig out from the worst economic crisis in many decades was not
mentioned - another complexity that challenges those opposed to Obama.
Jun 15 Speaking before the US Senate Committee on Energy and
Natural Resources, US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell speaks of fire
seasons that have lengthened by more than 30 days and that "Our
scientists believe this is due to a change in climate." Senator Al
Franken, Democrat from Minnesota, suggests to his fellow committee
members that they consider climate change as a key issue. Senator James
Risch, Republican from Idaho, complains that Franken lacks a degree in
fire science or natural resources. Risch received a BS degree in
forestry in 1965.
Jun 16 Today a suicide bomber belonging to a group that
thinks like al-Qaeda set off a bomb in Abuja powerful enough to kill at
least thirty people and destroy forty automobiles. According to the
BBC, "The group accuses Nigeria's government of being corrupted by
Western ideas and wants to overthrow the state and impose Islamic law
on the country." It's a fight that the US can leave to Nigeria's
government to wage, similar to Indonesia, which today jailed radical
cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir.
Jun 17 Non-stop media focus on US Congressman Anthony Weiner
is ending after more than two weeks. Weiner reversed himself yesterday
and announced his resignation. Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly gave us
his perspective, saying that, "Once a country begins to accept
corruption in government then it is just a matter of time before that
country falls apart. Ancient Rome best example." Weiner sent some lewd
photos on the internet to a few women. The damage he did was largely to
himself and his wife. (The Roman Empire fell apart not because of such
personal naivetes or individual moral failings but in part at least
because of the political weaknesses inherent with big empires.)
Jun 17 Staying with Fox News, morality and the mangling of
history, Glenn Beck a couple of weeks ago connected decadence
associated with the movie about German decadence during the Weimar
republic, Cabaret, and Hitler's mass murder of Jews that took place
after the start of World War II. Hitler rose to power speaking against
big city decadence and he won a following among rural voters also
opposed to it. There was no connection between that "decadence" and the
murder of millions of Jews.
Jun 17 Staying with morality, Russia's foreign minister
reiterates that Russia will veto the UN resolution that condemns the
Assad regime's brutalities, a resolution that also calls for UN human
rights monitors to be allowed into Syria and for countries to stop
supplying weapons to the Assad regime. Russia has been an ally and
weapons supplier to the Assad regime.
Jun 18 In recent months Greece's government has not been
collecting enough revenue to match its expenditures let alone the
surplus needed to pay its debts. Government debt has worsened because,
it is said, economic activity has declined with the government's
austerity plan. So the government has been selling government owned
enterprises, privatizing more of Greece's economy to raise money, and
it has been cutting more spending. Unemployment has been rising - to
15.9 percent in the first three months of this year. People are
complaining about hardship. Suicides are up. Soup kitchen lines are
longer. There are strikes. Holders of Greece's debt, largely French
bankers and other bankers across the globe, are worried about getting
the money owed them.
Jun 19 Demonstrators in Athens wave Greek flags and shout,
"Thieves! Traitors!" A businessman explains: "Most of the people here
want all the measures to be rescinded and a part of the debt to be
written off, or all of it, at least the part that comes from banks."
Jun 20 After wandering around Syria for a week incognito,
Lebanese writer and scholar Fawaz Gerges reminds us that the world
still has many people willing to support a murderous dictator. Gerges
reports that the Assad regime has support of something like 40 percent
of the people, that the protests are not as large as have occurred in
Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen and that the Assad regime may be able to hold
on to power. (CNN)
Jun 21 In various cities in Syria, people attend rallies in
support of President Assad. In Damascus, Rateb Shallah, head of the
Syrian Chambers of Commerce Federation, expresses confidence in another
speech by Assad that promises reforms. Says Shallah: "I hope it will be
a turning point in solving the crisis and that it will meet the demands
of the Syrian people." (BBC News)
Jun 22 In Kenya, the tax office accuses Members of Parliament
of failing to pay taxes on their salaries and perks. Meanwhile the MPs
have voted themselves annual salaries and perks for 2012 to as high as
$126,000. Kenya ranks 199th in per capita GDP. Its division between
rich and poor, its corruption rating and its revenue as a percentage of
GDP are typical for poorer countries: well below average. And like most
countries, Kenya in 2010 failed to balance its budget.
Jun 23 Pakistan's army is described by Fareed Zakaria as the
big power in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region with the coming drawdown
of US troops from Afghanistan - announced last night by President
Obama. Zakaria writes that the evidence is now overwhelming that
Pakistan's army, traditionally secular, is now "infiltrated at all
levels by violent Islamists, including Taliban and al-Qaeda
Jun 23 An article by BBC News has described Indonesian
moderates as becoming "more vocal" in their opposition to the militant
Islamism represented by The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). According to
the article, "A recent survey found that almost half of high school
pupils around Jakarta approved of the use of violence in the name of
religion and morality."
Jun 24 It's Friday - protest day in Syria. In Morocco, where
King Mohammed VI has not been shooting or jailing democracy advocates,
there may or may not be a small demonstration in an urban center, but
it's peaceful - while the nation awaits a referendum on a new
constitution to be held on July 1. In Syria, tens of thousands are
again in the streets, hating President Bashar al-Assad, and government
forces are again shooting people.
Jun 26 An expert on debt, Mohamed El-Erian, who oversees the
assets of PIMCO, the world's largest bond fund manger, recognizes that
Greece's budget cutting and austerity measures are depressing its
economy. He repeats what others have said, that Greece's problem could
"contaminate" Europe. The United States problem, he says, is "nothing
like Greece." The US still "has time" to deal with its fiscal policy
issues. The US can "solve it medium term," and the solution can be
addressed through political compromise.
Jun 27 A headline in today's New York Times reads "Europe
Stifles Drivers in Favor of Alternatives." One line in the lengthy
article reads, "While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has generated
controversy in New York by 'pedestrianizing' a few areas like Times
Square, many European cities have already closed vast areas to car
traffic." Meanwhile, according to Nationmaster.com, the US has been
consuming almost twice as much oil per person as Denmark: 68.672
barrels per 1,000 persons per year in the US and 34.857 barrels in
Denmark (2007 figures).
Jun 28 Much of Greece's debt is held by French banks.
France's president announced yesterday that he and his country's banks
plan to let Greece take 30 years to pay its debt. The US stock market
Jun 28 In Syria, the Assad regime has done something that
appears clever. Yesterday it allowed and it apparently organized a
group of dissidents to meet openly in a hotel in Damascus to discuss
Syria's political crisis. The well publicized meeting fits with
President Assad's call for a national dialogue. It also threatens to
divide the protest movement and diminish those protesters who say that
the only solution is for Assad to go.
Jun 29 Amid wild and futile protests in the streets that
includes anarchists, and an on-going labor union strike with workers
outraged by the idea of a 30 percent pay cut, Greece's parliament
approves by a vote of 155 to 138 the government's austerity plan. The
government plans aims at sacrifices by the whole of a unified nation.
Demonstrators wanted only the rich to pay - not feasible according to
the Socialist government's calculations.
Jul 2 Yesterday in Syria after Friday prayers hundreds of
thousands marched nationwide. Human rights groups say that at least 24
people were killed by security forces. The Assad regime has begun to
allow foreign journalists into the country, and one of them, Deborah
Amos of National Public Radio, reported from Syria yesterday on the
News Hour that the city of Hama was belng run by protesters. She spoke
of some Syrians afraid of the protesters because they didn't know who
the protesters were. This involved the tolerance of brutalities by
people not themselves under attack, people supporting the peace and
stability that dictators love.
Jul 2 US Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Ohio Democrat) met
recently with Assad and yesterday told CNN's Eliot Spitzer that Assad
is "aware of the need to bring democratic reforms and understands that
time is running short." Kucinich is opposed to anti-Assad violence and
civil war and he scolded Spitzer for his lack off concern over "what
comes next." Spitzer, on the other hand, appears to be among those
willing to take a chance on great numbers of people who join a struggle
for the sake of liberty, freedom and democracy.
Jul 3 Democracy triumphs in the Kingdom of Thailand. The new
prime minister will be Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of exiled Thaksin
Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup and was the hero of Red
Shirt protesters and much of the rural population. Affluent urbanites
disliked his reforms and higher taxes. The outgoing prime minister
concedes victory to his rival - Thailand's first woman prime minister.
Jul 4 While in Syria troops in the city of Hama are raiding
homes and arresting people, reforms in Morocco expressed in a
referendum win big - too big according to Moroccan protesters. They
march and call the reforms "window dressing." They are free from
government harassment but politically isolated. According to BBC News
the yes vote on King Mohammed's new constitution is supported by all
"main political parties, unions, civic groups [and] religious leaders."
The king is to remain head of state, the military and a religious
figurehead. A prime minister is to run the government and be chosen as
are prime ministers in Britain, and an independent judiciary is to be
reinforced. The European Union supports the changes, saying "it signals
a clear commitment to democracy." King Mohammed's tolerance toward
dissent appears to be working, while hatred for Syria's prevaricating
dictator, Assad, remains unabated.
Jul 5 Many of us, including a lot of Republicans, recognize
that business people these days are sitting on a lot of money rather
than investing in economic growth and creating jobs. There are
economists who blame this on consumers not spending creating less of a
market for whatever goods companies produce. Some others want to blame
President Obama. They say that business people aren't spending because
Obama has created uncertainty concerning taxes. It fits their stance
against new taxation of any kind. Their theory asks us to believe that
because of an increase in PERSONAL income taxes on superwealthy
executives, CORPORATIONS would be reluctant to invest to catch up with
consumer willingness to buy.
Jul 8 A half million or hundreds of thousands in
the Syrian city of Hama are reported to have taken to the streets
today. They treat the ambassadors from France and from the United
States as heroes. Many are carrying olive branches and chanting: "We
only kneel to God." One proclaims: "As long as we have no security
forces, we have no violence." Elsewhere across Syria today, according
to reports, at least 14 are killed, including six in a Damascus suburb.
Jul 9 South Sudan celebrates its first day of politiclal
Jul 9 In Malaysia, 1,650 are arrested (according to the
police) for participating in an illegal protest in Kuala Lumpur.
Protests are allowed, but a permit was not given for a large protest in
the capital. Rally organisers want electoral reforms and fair coverage
by government-linked news media.
Jul 11 Britain's phone-hacking scandal and the fall of Rupert
Murdock's News of the World newspaper originates with the British
public's appetite for stories about murders and tiddle-taddle - as
described today by columnist Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post.
It's the same appetite for the sensational that results in purchases of
supermarket tabloids in the US also owned by Murdock and that
influences the delivery of "news" on a variety of commercial television
Spitzer. Search Spitzer-Bozellto watch Spitzer's interview
with Media Research Center founder L.
Brent Bozell III.
Jul 13 Eliot Spitzer has been dropped by CNN as prime time
host of a program that was respected by many as a stimulating and
brainy 8pm television alternative. Yours truly was one of what must
have been many who were delighted that an able man like Spitzer had
been able to pick himself back up from the mistake he made that caused
him to resign as governor of New York. Tim Graham, the analyst at Media
Research Foundation, a conservative group dedicated to the elimination
of liberal bias in the media, sees it differently. On onenewsnow.com,
Graham is quoted as saying,
It's one thing [for CNN] to say, 'We're going to have a politician, a
Democrat politician, host a talk show' on a network that's billing
itself as the centrist alternative to Fox and MSNBC; that was confusing
... But much worse than that was that Eliot Spitzer was a disgraced man
who solicited high-priced prostitutes. He was lucky he wasn't behind
bars instead of on television.
Jul 15 Another Friday and more of the Assad regime dialoguing
with bullets. According to Aljazeera, the "biggest protests so far"
occurred today, and "14 protesters have been killed across Syria."
Jul 16 Annual World Population Day occurred on the
11th with little notice. The PBS television program Need To Know
mentioned it yesterday and described the decline in concern starting
after the Nixon administration - Nixon having been concerned. There
were businessmen and land speculators who saw profits in population
increases. There were those with a religious orientation who were
opposed to family planning and abortion. There were those who saw
concern with population growth as directed against blacks, and there
was the exaggeration in Paul Ehrlich's book Population Bomb. Europe and
industrialized Asian countries have addressed the issue of population
somewhat successfully. Among the industrialized powers the United
States is the fastest growing - a little under 3 million more people
Jul 17 A Gallup poll taken last week has 42% voting against
raising the debt ceiling and 22% for, despite the realization by all
who have an understanding of the debt problem that not raising the debt
ceiling would produce economic disaster. In other words, leadership is
required from the Senate and Congress, not over-simplification and
demagoguery. Hats off to those among the 35% who chose the "don't know
Jul 19 Time magazine reports that the research arm of the
consulting firm McKinsey has compared the overall US debt with that of
other countries - that is government debt, individual household debt,
corporate debt and bank debt added together and compared to our GDP.
The US's debt is equal to 275% of our GDP, compared to over 450% for
Britain, about the same for Japan, 350% for Spain and a little above
300% for France. The US debt level is about the same as Germany's, and
Germany is said to be performing well economically.
Jul 20 In Malaysia, Ms Kamariah Ali belongs to a sect that
believes in the healing powers and purity of water. She describes
herself as no longer a Muslim. Malaysia is 60 percent Muslim.
Malaysia's civil court has ruled that she must be tried in an Islamic
court because she is a Muslim, and there she will be tried for apostasy.
Jul 22 Speaking of food, Josette Sheeran of the U.N. World
Food Program has recently said that, "For the first time in most
people's memory we're in a post-surplus world." She was in Indonesia
and pointed out that many children there are without adequate nutrition
and their physical brains are not developing as well as children who
are getting sufficient nutrition. One bad drought or one bad flood, she
said, means higher food prices and more food deprivation. Indonesia has
a population growth rate estimated at 1.07 percent per year, roughly
2.6 million people per year.
Jul 23 The city of Hama has been described as 80 percent with
the protesters and 20 percent "opposed or unsure." Youths in the city
are organizing defensive positions against government forces and
documenting the missing and dead. People are gathering as they did in
Cairo in February and they are singing songs, including one which has
become an anthem: "Come on Bashar, leave." Ibrahim Qashoush became
prominent singing these songs at rallies until earlier this month when
he was snatched away. The next day his body was pulled from a river.
His throat had been cut and his vocal cords ripped out. (Told by
Anthony Shadid of the New York Times to Jeffrey Brown of the News Hour.)
Jul 25 What is "cultural Marxism?" Anders Behring Breivik,
the Norwegian who killed 93 or so people three days ago, saw himself as
fighting multiculturalism and cultural Marxism. In the US, Pat Buchanan
and Congressman Ron Paul have been described as also oppossed to
"cultural Marxism." To associate Buchanan or Paul with what Breivik has
done would be dumb about as simple-minded as the article that describes
cultural Marxism as the corruption of America. It can be found on the
internet. (Search ron paul and cultural marxism.) The article suggests
that the aim of the cultural Marxists is to sneak into the United
States the Marxism that gripped Stalinist ideologues in the thirties
and forties. I have news for them: that Marxism is gone, and was not as
pervasive in the 1960s as described in the article. It doesn't even
exist in China. The article mentions Jerry Rubin, the notorius sixties
radical. Rubin detested Marx. He and Brevik had one thing in common:
politics by theatre. That was before Rubin became a stockbroker.
Jul 25 Ayaan Hirsi Ali, known for her hostility toward
multi-culturalism, writes today on Facebook: "Hate is never the answer.
Our hearts go out to everyone in Norway."
Jul 27 Nigeria's president since early 2010, Goodluck
Jonathan, asks members of parliament to amend the constitution to limit
presidents to one-term in office. With this, he says, politicians would
focus more on governance and less on re-election. Jonathan is an
example of a new breed of leader coming to the fore in Africa. It's
Doctor Goodluck Jonathan, by the way. He holds an M.Sc. degree in
Hydrobiology and Fisheries biology, and a Ph.D. degree in Zoology.
Jul 27 A new poll from Reuters/Ipsos has 31 percent
of respondents blaming congressional Republicans for the breakdown in
the budget negotiations and 21 percent holding President Obama
responsible. In other words Republican rhetoric is not doing as well as
the president's rhetoric, perhaps because more of the public believes
as Obama does that people with super-incomes should be paying more in
taxes than their secretaries and Republicans remain 100 percent
anti-tax. Meanwhile, some on the anti-Obama side of the debate claim
that Obama isn't taking the debt problem seriously enough. Instead,
many on Obama's side see the debate as a question of what is best for
the economy including the debt. It's still pro and con about trickle
down economics and compromise versus all-or-nothing.
Jul 30 Some US Congressmen believe they are uttering
profundities when they tell us that we are spending too much money and
should stop spending more than we take in as revenues. They repeat the
old cliche that when you are in a hole you should stop digging. Indeed,
any simpleton can see that we have an economic problem, but they accuse
those who don't stick with their simplicities as being illogical.
Staying with their rhetoric, they give no recognition to the factual
complexities that impinge on choices as to HOW BEST to overcome the
nation's debt. They don't like complexity. But they and the rest of us
realize, do we not, that simpliticity can be dangerous.
Aug 1 The Global Competitiveness Report, published by the Word Economic
Forum (a Swiss non-profit organization) has released its 2012-2013
rankings. Switzerland leads. Then comes Singapore, Finland, Sweden,
Netherlands, Germany and the United States.
Aug 1 Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, shot in the
head by Jared Loughner in January, returns to the House of
Representatives to vote. She is greeted with applause, cheers, hugs and
acclaim from the rostrum.
Aug 2 South Africa's high speed train is up and running
between the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg - a 20 minute trip.
During rush hour by car the trip can take a couple of hours. The
train's top speed is 100 miles per hour, and it cost 3.8 billion
dollars to put into operration. The government plans more investment in
this infrastructure. South Africa has less than one-fourth the per
capita GDP of the United States. Its infrastructure ranking has been
listed as 56th compared to 23rd for the US, just behind Spain. First is
Aug 3 The Republicans have won in the budget bargaining, the
Democrats winning the raising of the debt ceiling and the Speaker of
the House, John Boehner, saying he is happy in getting 98 percent of
what he wanted. The debate over economic policy will continue. Agreeing
with the conservative Republicans is John Taylor, economics professor
at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution,
who was a Treasury official in the George W. Bush administration. With
the notorious pundits Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, he believes that
Obama's stimulus did not work, and he is waiting for businessmen to be
inspired to hire by their increased confidence in the economy. It
appears that the Democrats will be powerless and the economy will
remain unstimulated at least until January 2013.
Aug 4 The UN Security Council responds to about as bad as it
gets in dictatorial brutalities by merely condemning the Assad regime's
"widespread violations of human rights." And, matching the oft-spoken
words of a well known and respected pontiff, it calls for "an immediate
end to all violence." Russia and China added to the UN's weakness
regarding the Assad regime's violence by voting against a stronter
Aug 5 Amnesty International complained yesterday that the UN
Security Council's response to the recent bloodshed in Syria is
"completely inadequate." The Amnesty spokesperson added that, "The UN
must act now, with a firm and legally binding position. At the very
least, its position must include imposing an arms embargo, freezing the
assets of President al-Assad and other officials suspected of
responsibility for crimes against humanity, and referring the situation
to the ICC Prosecutor," Amnesty International has received the names of
more than 1,500 people believed to have been killed since pro-reform
protests began in mid-March. Today, Friday, security forces again fired
with live ammunition and tear gas against protesters in various cities,
and, in the Qadam district of Damascus, protesters carried a banner
reading: "Bashar is slaughtering the people and the international
community is silent."
Aug 9 Late Friday, Standard & Poor's lowered its US
credit rating from AAA to AA+. On Monday stocks in Asia and Europe were
down 2 or 3 percent and in the US the Dow fell 5.6% - the biggest fall
for the Dow since the 2008 economic crisis. Today - Tuesday - stocks
bounced back, the Dow rising 3.98% (429.92 points).
Aug 9 Standard & Poor's explained its move as caution
against the prospect of political gridlock preventing the recovery
necessary to paying down the debt. Democrats have been calling it the
"Tea Party Downgrade." Tea Party Republicans and their fellow travelers
have been vociferous in blaming the downgrade on Obama. When asked
about the responsibility of Congress for the budget, the conservative
pundit Bill O'Reilly has said yes but but Obama is failing to lead.
Aug 9 Standard & Poor's and both Democrats and
Republicans recognize that economic growth is necessary to raise
revenues to address the debt. Meanwhile, Republicans continued to
denounce stimulus spending. Speaking on the anti-stimulus side of the
debate, Steve Forbes, on Sunday on CNN proclaimed counterfactually
that, "You never get a recovery from more spending." Others continue to
claim that the Obama stimulus early in his administration was of no
help to the economy. And, on Fox News, Bill O'Reilly yesterday argued
against progressive adjustments in wealth division while claiming that
there is no wealth to divide: he proclaimed that we're broke.
Aug 10 Armed offenses into cities and towns by the Assad
regime continue - the latest in the northeast of Syria. Meanwhile,
Saudi King Abdullah has denounced the offensives as unacceptable, and
this has encouraged Syria's Sunni population. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and
Kuwait have withdrawn their ambassadors from Syria. Turkey's foreign
minister yesterday urged Assad to stop killing protesters. Syria's
state-run news agency has responded defiantly to Assad's critics by
announcing the government's will to relentlessly fight "terrorist
groups," referring to the few who have armed themselves rather than
present themselves for slaughter. The majority of protesters remain
non-violent with hope of more erosion of support for Assad within the
Aug 11 About the motives of those who have been rioting and
looting in various cities in Britain these last few days, Anne
Applebaum in the Washington Post observes that they are not protesting
with signs or talking to the press as did protestors in Egypt. These
are people not deprived of political democracy. They are not students
protesting rising costs in education or housewives protesting rising
food prices. Their manner suggests that dignity is not their concern.
They are encouraging each other with hand-held high-tech devices to
grab what they can from stores - inedible things - while expressing
their defiance by breaking glass and trashing cars. There are
indications of envy of the well-to-do among them. An observer complains
that "the welfare state really has left a generation of young people
feeling both dependent on government handouts and entitled to more."
Someone else writes: "They are like penned-in animals protesting that
the farmer isn't putting enough feed into their trough." However
deprived they feel relative to the greater affluence of others, they
are being considered by society in general and by the David Cameron
government as criminals.
Aug 13 In Syria, masses of people refuse to diminish their
protests despite the dictator Assad's attempt to terrorize them with
brutality. Writes BBC News: "Activists said at least 16 people died on
Friday [yesterday] as protesters came under fire in towns and cities
across the country." Also yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
complained that buying oil and gas from Syria and exporting arms there
were giving Assad "comfort in his brutality." Yesterday in Syria were
chants of "Death to Assad." Assad's forces are entering cities and then
withdrawing rather than occupying. When they withdraw, people come back
into the streets, encouraged by their numbers. The logic of events
leaves local freedom fighters to deal with Assad's local agents. It's a
battle Assad appears unable to win.
Aug 15 Over the weekend one of the Republicans
running for president at the Iowa state fair, Rick Santorum, said that
we would be all right if we would just believe in the people. Exactly
which people amid all the conflicting opinions we should believe in he
didn't say, but some of us suspect that he was referring to those who
side with him.
Aug 15 Another confusing line, also approved with
applause and squeals, was a suggestion delivered by Ron Paul that the
nation's troubles stemmed from not following the Constitution. He said
that "If we'd just follow the Constitution we'd be all right." It
leaves some of us wondering how our great judicial system has allowed
the nation to drift away from the Constitution - while led as it is by
a conservative Supreme Court and legislators and everyone else,
especially those with wealth to protect, free to litigate?
Aug 17 In India citizens are fed up with what they describe
as corruption of the political class. The crusading leader of the
movement, Anna Hazare, started a hunger strike because only part of his
proposed legislation has government support. The government has
arrested Hazare to protect him from himself, and today tens of
thousands are in the streets for him, demonstrating their support.
Aug 18 In India, anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare has
agreed to the government's offer that he leave prison. Hazare's aides
say he will extend his hunger strike for fifteen days in a public park.
Hazare wants no watered-down compromise version of his proposed
anti-corruption legislation, and Prime Minister Singh accuses him of
trying to circumvent democracy.
Aug 18 In Chile, a commission investigating human rights
abuses during the reign of General Pinochet (1973-90) adds 9,800 more
people to a list of persons held as political prisoners and tortured,
raising the total of recognized victims to 40,018.
Aug 19 Yesterday, President Obama demanded that Bashar al-
Assad, President of Syria, step aside, and Secretary of State Clinton
said, "The transition to democracy in Syria has begun." This is a move
coordinated with leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Turkey. With
the European Union it includes freezing Syrian assets and sanctions
against buying Syrian oil. The protest movement in Syria is described
as encouraged. Also there was news yesterday that Assad told UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that military and police operations
against demonstrators has ended. Today Syria's military attacked the
populations of various cities, and another 20 people are reported
Aug 21 Rebels are closing on Tripoli. A rebel television
broadcast from Qatar urges listeners to treat Gaddafi supporters whom
they are arresting with dignity. "It is enough humiliation for him that
he is under arrest."
Aug 21 An inter-ethnic war over resources in South Sudan has
killed at least 500 people. There is competition for land and water
resources, and Murle pastoralists are accused of aggression. An
estimated 40,000 cattle have been stolen - with people dependent on
their livestock for food. Villages have been burned to the ground.
Aug 22 The extent to which people in Tripoli emerged in the
streets yesterday to celebrate the end of the Gaddafi regime exposes
the nonsense and fantasy expressed by Gaddafi and his spokesmen and the
oppression that kept these people subdued and secretive. As of this
morning, only one-fifth of Tripoli is reported to be controlled by
Aug 24 People on Fox News normally critical of President
Obama are demonstrating the fairness of which they sometimes speak.
They, including Bill O'Reilly, have been praising Obama regarding Libya
- no US or NATO dead, no fortune spent, and the anti-Gaddafi forces
having a sense that it is their war and their victory. Our modesty is
reaping benefits. Support for US exceptionalism as a license to attempt
control rather than to partner with others, or the call for Obama to do
nothing regarding Libya, are points of view not riding high at the
Aug 25 Those in power in the throes of losing a war have been
inclined to fantasize. It happened in Germany and Japan as early as
1943-44. Given the increase in capability of the forces against
Gaddafi, it was obvious as they were closing in on Tripoli that Gaddafi
and company would not be able to reverse the tide of war. Then
Gaddafi's son spoke of a clever trap in Tripoli that would break the
rebels' back. Today, hiding like a pursued rodent, Gaddafi is calling
on the people of Tripoli to capture and kill his adversaries, whom he
calls rats, "street by street, house by house."
Aug 26 "... I have been traveling around [Tripoli] every day
since Monday (it's Friday), and more and more neighborhoods are secure.
What seems to be happening is that you have got like neighborhood
committees ... And I have to say that there is still this there's still
this huge sense of joy here that, however hard the conditions are,
whenever you talk to people and you say, how are you feeling, they say:
I'm free. We're free, free at last. Gadhafi is gone. So, however hard
it is, they're just still full of excitement, absolutely thrilled to be
living this moment." Lindsey Hilsum, International Television News
Aug 30 In running for president of the United
States, Rick Perry joins others in making jobs the leading issue. He is
asking people to look at what he has achieved as governor of Texas by
keeping taxes low. With this he is leading other Republicans running
for president and is even or a little ahead of President Obama in
polling that compares the two - while unemployment in Texas remains
about average for the states, at 8.4 percent.
Aug 31 Mitt Romney claims that because he has been a
businessman he would make a better president than a "career
politician." Some of us suspect that he is intelligent enough to know
that running a corporation puts demands on an executive that are
different from the demands on the nation's top executive (who is
responsible regarding issues much broader and different in dynamics
than a corporation's interests), and he must know that there is no
shortage of examples of businessmen who did poorly when trying to be
politicians. Some no doubt think that Romney is making a calculated
appeal to the many who don't think of such things. Some others might
see Romney as just a good-natured, rather happy and ambitious mental
Sep 1 Protest leaders in Syria have been insisting on
non-violence, rejecting the path that the Libyan uprising has taken.
They describe this as the moral high ground, and there is some hope,
expressed in an article published by BBC News, that "the largely Sunni
trading classes of Damascus and Aleppo" will desert the regime as the
new sanctions against Syria "begin to bite."
Sep 1 Today is the deadline for Libya's ambassador to leave
Zimbabwe - kicked out for supporting Libya's new anti-Gaddafi regime.
Zimbabwe's authoritarian ruler, Robert Mugabe, supports Gaddafi. He
condemns NATO's role in Libya and says the conflict in Libya is really
Sep 2 The European Union buys 95% of Syria's oil exports,
which accounts for 25% of Syria's national income, and today the
European Union has banned its importation. And it's Friday, going to
mosque day - a day of protests in Syria. According to BBC News,
protests are going forward today under the slogan "death rather than
humiliation" - not a slogan heard among those resisting British rule,
overthrowing the tsar or marching with M.L. King in the American South.
Sep 3 A report out of Syria claims that 20 people were killed
yesterday during protests across Syria. Eight are said to have been
killed when security forces intervened to disperse protests in several
suburbs of Damascus.
Sep 5 Illegal immigrant boat arrivals in Australia have been
increasing: 7 in 2008, 61 in 2009, 134 in 2010. Prime Minister Julia
Gillard of the Labour Party wants to do something about it. Unlike her
predessesor, Kevin Rudd, also of the Labour Party, she is against a
"big Australia" and warns that "Australia should not hurtle down the
track towards a big population."
Sep 6 Amid public debate, Italy's conservative government is
revising its austerity package. Sales taxes are due to rise, a
balance-the-budget law is to be put into the constitution, and changes
to the retirement age will be made. The Italian General Confederation
of Labour (CGIL), Italy's most powerful trade union (5.5 million
members) is striking, and it demands stronger action against tax
Sep 7 In the Washington Post, columnist Ruth Marcus looks at
presidential candidate Mitt Romney's rhetorical "Career politicians got
us into this mess and career politicians can't get us out!" She
complains that one person's career politician is another person's
devoted public servant, that knowledge that comes with experience can
be helpful in working on complicated issues. She says she would argue
that "President Obama's current difficulties stem less from his being a
'career politician' than from the fact that his political career was so
brief before he won the White House."
Sep 9 Hundreds of people are dying every day in Somalia's
famine, according to reports. The UN estimates that four million
people, more than half of Somalia's population, are living in famine
zones - mostly in the south of the country, still controlled> by
Islamic extremists. The UN's food agency, the World Food Program,
prohibits its staff from moving beyond the airport military base at
Somalia's largest city and capital, Mogadishu, and the UN agency is
having trouble finding shipping companies willing to send their vessels
to Mogadishu through the pirate-infested waters.
Sep 10 None of us like paying taxes, even while we splash
money around on junk food and other frivolities and our infrastructure
is rotting and we're not paying for our wars. On the 8th, President
Obama called on Congress to pass an economic growth plan that consists
of no tax increases for the average American. Instead it offers
payroll-tax cuts for employees and employers - to stimulate spending,
stimulate the economy and an appeal to business-minded Republican
lawmakers. Businesses are willing to borrow money for investments they
think will produce profits, but many Republicans are claiming that
Obama's plan is just more stimulus spending that does not work.
Sep 12 The economist Robert Reich compares the US today with
where it was at the end of World War II when the nation had an enormous
debt from government spending on war and other programs. At first many
feared that another great depression was on the way. (I heard my
parents arguing about it.) Rather than rescinding Roosevelt's New Deal
there was the government's huge program for veterans in education - the
G.I. Bill - and home loans. The US was on its way to reducing the
debt not by tax cuts but by economic growth that continued
during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower (who has been called a New
Deal Republican). Eisenhower launched a great infrastructure project -
the national highway system.
Sep 13 Libya's ambassador to the United States, Ali Suleiman
Aujali, writes: "Our road map for building democracy and civil society
includes the drafting of a constitution by a representative authority,
the approval of the constitution by a popular referendum and, then, for
the first time in Libya's history, holding free elections for a
representative government. There is a great deal of work ahead. One of
our most important tasks will be preventing further unrest. The order
of the day must be justice and not revenge.
Sep 14 Journalist Nicholas Shaxson writes: "Over half of
world trade passes, at least on paper, through tax havens. Over half of
all bank assets, and a third of foreign direct investment by
multinational corporations, are routed offshore.... The United States
is estimated to be losing $100 billion annually from offshore tax
Sep 17 The liberal-conservative coalition in power in Denmark
was talking about keeping Denmark on its successful path of sustainable
economic growth. But a close election two days ago is bringing to power
a left-of-center coalition led by Social Democrat Helle
Thorning-Schmidt, 44, who will be Denmark's first woman prime minister.
She is reported as having campaigned on a platform of tax rises and
increased public spending. Meanwhile, Denmark's revenues are almost 80%
of its GDP compared to 14.2% in 2010 for the United States. Denmark's
unemployment rate is around 4.2% compared to 9.1% for the United
States. Denmark's national debt is something like half that of the
United States, and the Danes worry about the US economy because the US
is a buyer of their exports.
Sep 18 Meeting in Istanbul days ago, Syrian opposition groups
have agreed on a single body, a Syrian National Council, to represent
them. Yesterday more than 200 "opposition figures" met at a private
farm in Syria, near Damascus, in an effort to unite anti-government
Sep 18 Chinese villagers in Zhejiang province have stormed a
factory they fear is endangering people with environmental pollution.
Several company cars were overturned and offices were destroyed.
Sep 18 In Jakarta dozens of women wearing miniskirts protest,
one sign reading: "My miniskirt, my right." Another sign reads, "Don't
tell us how to dress; tell them not to rape." Jakarta's governor, Fauzi
Bowo, responds with an apology for warning females that they can avoid
being raped by not wearing short skirts.
Sep 19 Government authorities close down the offending
factory in China's Zhejiang province following the riotous protests of
Cable, pro-business economist
Sep 19 Business Secretary Vince Cable, in the cabinet of
David Cameron's conservative government, declares that "This is not a
time for business as usual or politics as usual." He speaks of the UK
rebuilding its broken economy and of his support for "responsible
capitalism." He expresses his concern regarding "vast disparities in
wealth" and his commitment to a "reduction in the tax burden on low and
middle earners [while] the wealthiest continue to pay the most."
Sep 20 President Obama says the wealthy and corporations
should pay their "fair share" to cut the deficit. John Boehner, House
of Representatives Speaker, responds, saying,"Pitting one group of
Americans against another is not leadership." He accuses Obama of class
Sep 22 Across Saudi Arabia campaigning for municipal
elections has begun. No government institution is allowed to provide
any moral or financial support to a candidate. Candidates are not
allowed to campaign as a member of a group or tribe or to use religious
or historical identifications. Candidates are obliged to keep their
sources of financial support transparent.
Sep 23 Rupiah Banda of Zambia expresses satisfaction that the
election he lost on September 20 was done in a democratic and civilized
way. The new president, Michael Sata, is sworn in today and speaks of
his commitment to the rule of law and to fighting poverty and
Sep 24 At the United Nations yesterday Palestinian leader
Mahmoud Abbas received a standing ovation by the General Assembly as he
submitted a bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state. He wants
pre-1967 borders and describes Israeli settlement building as colonial
military occupation and an obstacle to resolution with Israel. Israel's
prime minister, Benjamin Netanyaho, also spoke. He claimed that the
issue of the settlements can be resolved and suggested that Israel
continues to occupy the West Bank for the sake of its security. He
wants a deal with the Palestinians that offers Israel peace rather than
the rain of rockets that followed Israel pulling out of Gaza.
Sep 26 Fear of economic disaster in Europe abounds. Greece
owes more money than it can possibly pay. Euro countries, Britain and
Republicans in the US are in an austerity mode while some economists,
Austan Goolsbee in the US among them, speak of austerity as not
providing the growth needed to emerge from the crises. Paul Krugman
complains that some in Europe "don't seem at all ready to acknowledge a
crucial fact - namely, that without more expansionary fiscal and
monetary policies in Europe's stronger economies, all of their rescue
attempts will fail." Goolsbee states that it is crucial that focus now
be put on economic growth rather than austerity. Economic growth, of
course, increases revenues, and revenues are needed to pay down debt.
Sep 28 Continuing the debate between conservative and liberal
economists, Robert Reich claims that, "Austerity economics causes
higher unemployment, generating lower government revenues, which
increases government debt, causing more cuts and higher taxes."
Conservatives on the other hand are applauding austerity measures and
attacking what they consider profligacy. Some believe that Greece's
problem has been more tax-evasion than profligacy and today in Greece
people with that view continue their demonstations against the
government's austerity strategy.
Sep 30 Bahrain's court system sends twenty medics,
doctors and nurses, to prison on sentences of 5 to 15 years. The medics
had been released on bail. A government spokesman described the medics
as having been involved with hardline protesters seeking regime change.
The court has also upheld life sentences for eight Shia activists
convicted of participating in protests.
Sep 30 A Danish court has sentenced fifteen members of a
motorcycle gang to jail for six murder attempts against rival gang
members. Motorcycle gangs in Denmark?
Oct 1 Analysts express concern that the revolt in Syria,
which began peacefully six months ago, is evolving into an armed
conflict. According to state media, government forces have taken
control of the town of Rastan after days of fighting against defectors
who joined rather than fire upon the protesters. Deserters have been
described as forming their own units around Rastan. However pacifistic
the analysts and some of the protesters, the deserters are criminals in
the eyes of the Assad dictatorship, and they appear not inclined toward
begging helplessly for regime change as do some others.
Oct 2 The logic of Assad's continuing violence against
protesters plays out - different from events in Morocco, where
protesters were not fired upon. According to Anthony Shadid of the New
York Times, in Syria's third largest city, Homs, "The semblance of a
civil war has erupted." There, armed protesters call themselves
revolutionaries and gun battles erupt every few hours.
Oct 4 India's Supreme Court has ruled that the government's
fiscal constraints cannot apply to its school meal program. The court
has ruled that children have a right to food. Despite this program,
according to a report yesterday on the News Hour, malnutrition "remains
the root cause of 2,500 child deaths in every day."
Oct 5 Russian and Chinese vetoes in the UN Security Council
regarding sanctions against the Assad regime reduce hope of a peaceful
road to democracy in Syria. Western diplomats are angry at Russia and
China. US Ambassador Susan Rice speaks of Russia and China having "to
answer to the Syrian people." Russian and Chinese flags are being
burned in Syria. Meanwhile Turkey continues its embargo and is moving
toward greater conflict with Syria as civil war in Syria begins. Rebels
using arms to defend their dignity and their lives will be fighting
from centers too numerous for the Assad regime to control.
Oct 6 "What is important is, how do we get the productive
parts of America working harder, with greater exports, with more
investment, in the things that will grow the economy? That's the only
conversation that matters. Everything else solves itself with growth."
So says Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. in other words, paying off the
debt and more jobs will come with growth.
Oct 8 Yesterday across Syria were more peaceful
demonstrations following Friday prayers, and we have news of at least
eight of the demonstrators shot dead. Today's news describes security
forces killing several people at the funeral in the town of Qamishii
(in the northeast) for the murdered Kurd leader Mishall al-Temmo.
Yesterday al Jazzeera reported that an army colonel, Riad al-Asaad, has
taken refuge in Turkey and has established the "Syrian Free Army". And
yesterday Russia's President Medvedev sent a message to the Bashar
al-Assad that he must reform or go - as more Russian flags were burned
Oct 9 Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni describes
uprisings in the Middle East as an "Islamic awakening" and predicts
that the uprisings will follow the path Iran took with its 1979
revolution. Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan instead is supporting
secular democracy. He was greeted by cheering crowds on his recent
visit to North Africa, with the Iran regime accusing him of "acting in
line with the goals of America." Iran is supporting the Assad regime in
Syria, as is the Shiite prime minister of Iraq, al-Maliki. The Iran
regime describes the behavior of Turkish statesmen toward Syria as
"wrong" and predicts that if Turkey doesn't correct itself "it will
have both the Turkish people turning away from it domestically and the
neighboring countries of Syria, Iraq and Iran [reassessing] their
Oct 10 Demonstrations on Wall Street and other places leave
people in the US with something they already know: that there are
people who blame their frustrations on corporate greed. Meanwhile,
people are being bombarded with ideas slightly more complex. Fareed
Zakaria said it yesterday on his TV show: "The United States is
slipping by most measures of global competitiveness. In category after
category - actual venture capital funding, research and development -
America has dropped well behind countries like Japan, South Korea and
Sweden." The columnist Thomas Friedman joins in with his new book, That
Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How
We Can Come Back. It claims that the US no longer leads in innovation.
People are also being told that the US is falling behind in education,
which is foremost in the economic competitive game. Nations surpassing
the United States in various categories have revenues much higher as a
percentage of GDP (except for Singapore) than the US. The suggestion is
that more taxation is needed - an idea that continues to be denounced
by those who believe that taxation inhibits economic development.
Oct 12 Prime Minister Julia Gillard is elated by the passage
of a carbon tax law. She has announced: "Today is a significant day for
Australians and the Australians of the future who want to see a better
Oct 12 Burmese are joyous over
the freeing of 180 political prisoners. Last March a new civilian-led
parliament was sworn in and the military government officially
dissolved. General Than Shwe remains Chairman of the State Peace
Development Council. The head of state is his hand-picked successor.
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy is not represented in
parliament. And, according to the BBC, Burma still has around 2,000
Syria, Homs is the unofficial capital of the revolution.
Oct 12 Iran's Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei,
demonstrates his grasp of reality with the statement that the Wall
Street protests "will grow so that it will bring down the capitalist
system and the West." (The Guardian)
Oct 13 Nir Rosen has been in Syria writing for Al Jazeera. He
reaches into Syria's recent past and describes the persecution of the
Alawite sect to which the ruler Assad belongs. The persecutors have
been the Sunni majority. The Alawites have done well integrating with
the rest of society. They fear the conflict in Syria turning sectarian
and are worshipping Assad as their protector.
Oct 14 What began as continuous shooting of peaceful
protesters is turning into civil war, while the Assad regime claims
that it is merely going after terrorists and armed gangs. Writing
undercover from Syria, Remita Navai describes townfolk hiding her and
two young members of a new revolutionary group as Assad's forces attack
the town of Madaya (40 km northwest of Damascus) - in today's
Oct 16 Pundits dispute whether people demonstrating on Wall
Street are expressing grievances that are justifiable. Steve Forbes,
Republican, thinks the demonstrators are off the mark and blames
government for the economic crisis that began in 2007. Paul Krugman
counters, reminding people of the banking crisis that developed with
credit default swaps and the reckless lending of money. New York Times
columnist Nicholas Kristof lauds the demonstrators for publicizing the
issue of inequality. Someone comments on his article saying he is with
the demonstrators because education is not as affordable as it was in
Oct 17 Turki al Faisal, former chief of Saudi Arabia's
intelligence service, speaks of al Qaeda "losing out everywhere"
including in Saudi Arabia where "the al Qaeda cells that had been
planted by Bin Laden have practically all been destroyed." He speaks of
the Taliban in Afghanistan having "branched out" and that "other sects
and ethnicities [are] fighting the presence of military troops there
and I think that will grow as long as there are foreigners there." He
says the US should have declared victory with the assassination of bin
Laden and that now it would be best to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Oct 19 An editorial at arab news.com, out of Saudi Arabia,
expresses disgust with Syria's Bashar Assad: "Hours after the Arab
League called on the Syrian regime and opposition to hold 'dialogue
within 15 days' the killing machine went into action doing what it does
best: Kill, kill and kill. Dozens of people were killed in Homs and
elsewhere on Monday." Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has broken relations with
the Assad regime, and out of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba has
come support for the Assad regime defending itself against
Oct 20 Qaddafi is shot dead in his hometown of Sirte where he
was found hiding in a drainage pipe. His dream of a democracy based on
brotherhood rather than representational government (expressed in his
Green Book) is also dead. Qaddari financed the movie Lion of the Desert
. That lion, Omar Mukhtar, was a hero among Libyans and to Qaddafi.
Nasser of Egypt was another of his heroes. Qaddafi had a hero's
bravado, but it wasn't enough.
Oct 21 In Spain, the ETA Basque separatists renounce armed
struggle as a tool for achieving independence, ending their 40 years of
Oct 21 The killing continues in Syria today (Friday) - more
than twenty in the city of Homs. Here on You Tube are defiant
people in that city. Videos exist via Twitter of crowds in other cities
chanting for Assad's death.
Oct 24 A scientific study in the US on the question of global
warming confirms previous studies. The most recent study was funded in
part by the Charles G. Koch foundation, reputed to be conservative. The
study leader, the physicist Richard Muller, had a reputation for
Oct 25 Amnesty International reports that in Syria
authorities appear to have "given security forces a free rein in
hospitals." The report describes blood banks at the hospitals as under
the control of the defence ministry and blood being denied patients
with gun shot wounds. The report declares, "In many cases hospital
staff appear to have taken part in torture and ill treatment of the
very people they are supposed to care for."
Oct 26 Tunisia's Islamist party, the Ennahda, is winning a
plurality of seats in a new parliament and is working on the formation
of a coalition government. Members have indentified their party as the
Party of God - not a shocking claim to those in the US who think they
have seen a similar identification among Republicans. Declarations from
Ennahda leaders have led to expectations that power will enhance the
party's respect for order, tolerance and rules of democracy, including
cooperating with secular parties.
Oct 27 Warnings have been voiced about Tunisia's Ennahda
party. Oren Kessler writing for the Jerusalem Post has reminded people
that the party supported the
1979 embassy takeover in Iran, that evidence suggests it was
responsible for bombing four tourist hotels in the 1980s and that in
1991 its leader, Rashid Ghannouchi, called for attacks on US interests
in the Middle East in response to America's invasion of Iraq in the
Gulf War. Kessler adds that Ennahda's founding ideology was largely
shaped by Sayyid Qutb Meanwhile, Tunisia's Ennahda party
prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, claims that fears of Ennahda's power are
unwarranted. He says that in addition to his committment to pluralistic
democracy there will be no ban on bikinis or alcohol - bans that would
threaten Tunisia's important tourist industry.
Oct 28 Following a European Union summit meeting in Brussels,
banks accept a 50% loss on their loans (in the form of bonds) to Greece
- up from a previous agreement of 21% in July. The move is being
described as voluntary, but perhaps the banks felt they could do no
better. Equity markets in Europe and the US soared yesterday in
response, while there is no certainty that this latest concession to
Greece's debt will enable Greece to recover and grow.
Oct 28 Post-election violence erupts in one town in Tunisia,
and in his first news conference since the election the Ennahda party
leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, calls on all Tunisians to reject violence.
He adds that there would be a role for women in the new government and
no requirements for women to wear a headscarf.
Oct 29 The 22-member League of Arab States denounces the
killing of civilians and urges Syria (a member) to take "necessary
measures" to protect civilians. Yesterday, according to reports, at
least 37 protesters were killed, mostly in the cities of Homs and Hama.
Oct 30 A defiant Assad sends tanks and aircraft against Homs.
In an interview with Britain's Sunday Telegraph he warns of an
"earthquake" and Syria becoming another Afghanistan if the West
Oct 31 The U.S air base a few miles northwest of
Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan should go when its lease runs out in
2014, so says the country's prime minister, Almazbek Atambayev. BBC
Oct 31 World population reaches 7 billion.
Nov 1 Syria is accused of kidnapping dissidents from Lebanon,
to which its citizens have fled to avoid persecution by the Assad
Nov 1 In Greece, political support for the government's
austerity measures is cracking, and this sends stock markets into
another dive. A poll shows most Greeks do not support the government's
austerity measures. Common Greeks are not blaming themselves for their
country's debt crisis; they are blaming the wealthy who dodged paying
taxes - as did many who were not so wealthy.
Nov 1 The scientific work of genetically modifying male
mosquitoes is raising the hope of reducing mosquito populations and
Nov 2 Following UNESCO'S acceptance of the Palestinian
Authority as a member, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has
decided to expedite the construction of 2,000 housing units planned for
for Gush Etzion (20 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem), and for Ma'aleh
Adumim (a bedroom community ten minute's drive eastward from Jerusalem
Britain, France and Germany denounce Netanyahu's move.
Nov 3 At an Arab League meeting in Cairo the Assad regime has
agreed to end attacks against civilians, to take its troops and tanks
off the streets, to allow journalists and rights groups to monitor
events and to dialogue with protesters. The foreign minister of Qatar
says he is "happy" concerning the agreement and with his "brothers in
Syria ." A few tweeters have called on members of the Arab League to
"get real." And today, tanks with machine guns are reported as active
in the city of Homs, killing seven people.
Nov 4 The Assad regime responds to its agreement with Syria's
fellow Arab League members by again offering people amnesty if they
surrender. Aljazeera reports more demonstrations today and more
Nov 4 A new law in Cuba offers more free-market reform: the
buying and selling of homes. Since 1959 people have been exchanging
property by complicated barter arrangements or black-markets deals
involving illegal payments and bribes.
Nov 5 Islamists kill at least 63 people and set churches
afire in Damaturu, northeastern Nigeria . The group accused is Boko
Haram, which means Western Education Forbidden. Followers are said to
be influenced by the Koranic phrase, "Anyone not governed by what Allah
has revealed is among the transgressors." These are not our modern,
educated Muslims. Followers have been described as rejecting modern
science, the wearing of shirts and pants and voting in elections.
Nov 6 In Legatum Institute's annual 2011 ranking, the US is
1st in health, 5th in entrepreneurship and opportunity, 10th in
prosperty, 13th in education, and 26th in safety and security.
Nov 6 Bloomberg News reports. that an Italian surveillance
company, Area SpA, is busy supplying Assad's regime with the power to
intercept, scan and catalog virtually every e-mail that flows through
the country. The system is now in a test phase.
Nov 10 In Italy, rising bond yields burden paying off
government debt. Borrowing money is more expensive. Italy's economic
growth is stalled, reducing its ability to pay off its debt.The
European Union announces that economic growth for the entire Eurozone
has stalled. Recession looms.
Nov 11 In an article at Atlantic.com,
today the anti-regime Free Syrian Army is described as protecting "some
villages in Dera, Jebal Al-Zawya and Idlib and some districts in Hama
and Homs." And there is hope that Arab League influence on Russia and
China will prevent these two from casting another veto in the UN
Security Council. (From a tweet by SlaughterAM.)
Nov 12 The Arab League votes to suspend Syria from its
meetings and asks member states to withdraw their ambassadors from
Syria. In Syria, state televsion describe the league as "serving a
Western and American agenda."
Nov 14 Portland's mayor, Sam Adams, a Democrat with
progressive views and a history of toughness on police abuses, orders
the closing of the Occupy Portland protest camp. The deadline for the
protesters to leave the city-park area was yesterday. Adams says he is
enforcing the law. Police have been in riot gear because of potential
retaliation. Protesters haven't understood this and have complained
that there were no riots and that "We are a peaceful protest."
Yesterday some protesters scuffled with police in response to being
forced to move, rather than sitting down and letting themselves be
Nov 14 Google ranks change of address scammer (who is legal)
ahead of the US Postal Service.
Jean Quan, progressive Democrat and
the embattle mayor of Oakland, California
Nov 15 The mayors of New York and Oakland clear their cities
of occupation camps. Both mayors are progressive thinkers. Quan is a
smart Democrat. Their rationale is that their cities belong to all the
people, that they are in a democracy where freedom to express opinions
still exists. The protesters can express their views in a variety of
ways that will impact electoral politics where their views will count
more - without disrupting the rights of others in their use of public
parks and roadways.
Nov 18 Protest leaders in Berkeley and Oakland in the 1960s
opposed the urgings of wilder participants in demonstrations to close
down the Bay Bridge or otherwise block people trying to get some place,
like work. We were trying to win people to our point of view, not to
annoy people. Yesterday in New York City, protesters wanted to shut
down subway hubs and block roads. One emotionally wrought protester
told a newsman: "Bloomberg has really put gasoline on the flames. And
every inch that he pushes us back, we're going to go forward a foot.
And nothing's going to stop us, no matter how many times you try to
shut us down. We're going to figure out a way to be heard." Why he
can't be heard and seen demonstrating in the legal fashion that Mayor
Bloomberg favors the demonstrator did not say, and what he accomplishes
by pushing back that he could not accomplish remaining in accord with
Bloomberg will soon be apparent.
Nov 21 More than 109 Egyptian ambassadors and other diplomats
sign a statement that calls for an immediate halt to the violence and
aggression by security forces against protesters and for those
responsible to be brought to justice, and the statement says that the
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces should hand power to a civilian
government completely by the middle of 2012. At least 20 people are
reported to have died with hundreds more injured since the violence
began on the 19th. The protesters are offended by plans by the military
to remain an authority above a civilian government.
Nov 22 Greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere hit record levels
in 2010, and nearly 40 percent more carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere
now than at any time since the industrial era began in 1750, according
to a United Nations report.
Nov 23 Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his
forcast that the Arab Spring would turn into an "Islamic, anti-Western,
anti-liberal, anti-Israeli and anti-democratic wave" has become a
reality. He accused the Arab Spring revolutions of "moving not forward,
but backward." He criticized Western leaders, and especially President
Obama, for favoring Egypt's dictator, Mubarak, resigning from power.
According to Barak Ravid in Haaretz (Israel's foremost news agency),
Netanyahu is using the upheaval in the Arab world "to justify his
government's inaction vis-a-vis the peace process with the
Nov 24 King Hamad promises reforms after receiving a report
he ordered regarding events in Bahrain in February and March. The
500-page report was led by an Egyptian-American law professor, Mahmoud
Sharif Bassiouni, a veteran UN human rights investigator. King Hamad
says he never again wants to discover that "any of our law enforcement
personnel have mistreated anyone." He promises to sack those officials
who have abused their power and to reform Bahrain's laws to protect
freedom of speech and other basic rights.
Nov 25 Following days of mass demonstrations across Egypt and
around 38 protester deaths, Egypt's ruling military council has
apologized to the country. The aroused passions of the crowds in the
street want more. They want the generals to step aside. The Obama
administration has been supporting the generals but now calls for a
"Full transfer of power to a civilian government ... in a just and
inclusive manner that responds to the
legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible."
Nov 26 In Morocco's elections the Islamist Justice and
Development Party (PJD) wins the most seats in parliament - 80 among
395. The party's leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, will become head of
Morocco's government, the prime minister - appointed by King Mohamed
IV. The PJD has modeled itself on Turkey's ruling party, also named
Justice and Development Party. The elections are described in
Morocco, as a victory for democracy.
Nov 29 Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat,
has flattered demonstrators by congratulating them on their
accomplishments. But the mayor wants to uphold the law and the right of
people to free passage on public thoroughfares. Los Angeles police have
been avoiding aggressive confrontations while watching tents diminish
in number from day to day. This soft approach annoys those who are
impatient for tough police confrontation with illegality. They complain
that the police have lost credibility.
Nov 29 Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, sets Russia
against the logic of events that have been developing in Syria. He
calls for further attempts at political dialogue with the Assad regime.
The failure of the Arab League to move Assad through dialogue has been
followed by the league's economic sanctions and Syria's further
international isolation - except for more support for the Free Syrian
Army. France's foreign minister, Alain Juppe, says publicly that the
days of the Syrian government are "numbered."
Nov 30 More than 200 are arrested in a sweep that clears the
Occupy LA.camp - according to the Los Angeles Times without the fierce
confrontations that marred the sweeps in Oakland and New York. There
was some righteous indignation among the demonstrators. They apparently
saw no distinction between the laws they were violating and the
oppressive laws of authoritarian regimes or the laws that Martin Luther
King intentionally violated. Mrvonh, from Boone NC, makes no
distinction and tweets that the US is acting as a "police state." A few
demonstrators have mistakenly described themselves as representing
democracy and a majority - as did the T-Party movement .
Dec 1 Republicans back away from the
common ideological point among them that tax cuts pay for themselves
(by advancing the economy). Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell,
responds to President Obama's move to extend payroll tax cuts, saying
he cannot support such cuts unless they are paid for - with cuts in
spending. (Rachael Maddow Show, MSNBC, Nov 30)
Dec 2 China is cracking down on illegal jailers. Local
governments have been paying these "security firms" to detain persons
traveling to Beijing to voice grievances. (BBC)
Dec 2 Bloomberg News reports that internet and telephone
monitoring and surveliiance equipment for Syria is now banned by the
European Union. The Italian company, Area SpA, abandons its project for
the Assad regime. (See Nov 6)
Dec 3 Arguments counter to contemporary Republican ideology
have been getting a big hearing as we approach another election year.
Talking about his new book, "Back to Work," Bill Clinton tells PBS
journalist Judy Woodruff: "And so what I wanted to do was say, look at
the last 30 years. Look what our competitors are doing. There is no
example on the planet of a successful economy with broadly shared
prosperity and a shrinking, weak government. You can have a small, lean
government. But they're all strong. They're all working in partnership.
What works are these partnerships, these networks." Clinton's poll
numbers have been running 66% favorable and 33% opposed.
Dec 4 In the US, Herman Cain "suspends" his run for the
Republican presidential nomination. He claims that allegations of
sexual harassment and a 13-year-long extra-marital affair are false.
Someone tweets: "Just had a conversation with my FOX News watching
parents, who REALLY believe Cain is being smeared by Liberals. How can
we even be related?"
Dec 5 Quiet community work pays off for the Muslim
Brotherhood in Egypt's first round of parliamentary elections. An
article in the Los Angeles Times describes Egypt's young activists as
hampered in electoral politics by egos, political naivete and as
overwhelmed at the polls by better organized Islamists.
Dec 6 The National Institute for Space Research describes
6,238 square km (2,400 square miles) of rainforest in Brazil as having
disappeared between August 2010 and July 2011 - a drop of 11% from the
previous year - mainly the result of cattle farming, crop production
Dec 7 Dense smog in China's capital has led to cancellation
of hundreds of flights at its airport. Thousands of passengers have
been stranded. The US embassy describes particulate levels in the city,
Beijing, as "hazardous." The UN considers Beijing as one of the most
polluted in the world.
Dec 8 In an interview with Barbara Walters, President Assad
of Syria said that the security forces are not his, that he doesn't
command them and that there was no command to kill or be brutal. "I
don't own them," he said. "I am president. I don't own the country so
they are not my forces." He said that he did his "best to protect the
people...no government in the world kills it people unless it's led by
a crazy person." He repeated his claim that "foreign plotters" were
behind the nationwide unrest. He asserted that "the majority" is not
against him and that "The only thing that you could be afraid of as
president is to lose the support of your people." Like ancient Rome's
Nero and some like him, Assad gained power by a family connection.
Dec 9 Transparency International has released its 2011
Corruption Perceptions Index rankings (scroll down). The best scoring
country is New Zealand. Tied for 2nd are Denmark and Finland. Australia
is 8th, Switzerland 9th and Canada 10th. The US is 24th. Egypt is
112th. There, nepotism, bribery and patronage have been described as
deeply engrained in daily life.
Dec 10 In Syria, 35 or so deaths are reported for another
Friday of protests yesterday, eleven of the deaths in and around the
city of Homs. Syria has a population greater than 2.5 million and a
birth rate of 23.9 per 1,000, per year. Let's say half the population
is anti-Assad. That's about 880 new persons born into the anti-Assad
segment of society every day, and there might be about as many (let's
say 70 percent) coming of age every day. That would be a little more
than 600 per day. These are people who keep in mind what Assad's
security forces have done to people with whom they identify. If all
this holds, it means that 30, 40 or even 100 anti-Assad people killed
per day isn't going to save the Assad regime.
Dec 12 European leaders agreed in Brussels last week to an
increase in economic integration among countries that use the euro and
to impose sanctions on member states that exceed a budget deficit
limit. London is Europe's biggest financial center and more
cosmopolitan than New York. To protect its independence, Britain is not
joining the European Union agreement. Today France's Sarkozy complains
that there are now clearly "two Europes."
Dec 13 The government of El Salvador apologizes for an army
massacre of more than 1,000 persons - nearly half of them children - in
1981 during the war against the Farabundo Marti National Liberation
Front (FMNL). The FMNL Is now part of a government of former guerrilla
groups that won in the election in 2009. (Reported by BBC News)
Dec 13 In a fantastic exercise of false equivalence, Russia's
foreign minister claims that the West should condemn the opposition in
Syria as well as Syria's security forces. According to his logic a
people have no right to defend themselves and should instead protest by
bearing their necks to their oppressors. Some utopians, who do not
understand where and how non-violent tactics work, agree with him.
Dec 14 Regarding Russia's biggest protests since the fall of
the Soviet Union, aimed at Vladimir Putin, Fiona Hill of the Brookings
Institution says something that applies also to Britain's Margaret
Thatcher and Tony Blair. These two were "... enormously popular when
they came in, and towards that end of their tenure, after they had gone
through two terms ... they started to lose their popularity. People got
a little tired of seeing them. So, in other words, Mr. Putin's brand
has gone stale, and he hasn't been able to reinvigorate it." (From a
Dec 13 News Hour interview.)
Dec 15 Syrian defectors tell of orders to kill and torture
protesters, told by Tim Lister, CNN
Dec 15 Some Republicans complain about the graduated income
tax and describe it as theft. Matt Miller in today's Washington Post
writes of a lot of wealth distribution going on. This includes billions
in wealth from high-income states like New York and California, which
vote Democratic, shipped via federal benefits and subsidies to states
that vote Republican. Amid other examples, he doesn't mention wealth
distribution in the form of employee share of profits.
Dec 16 In last night's debate among Republican presidential
candidates, Newt Gingrich lectured again on morality. He again claimed
that secularists had no morality, no sense of right and wrong (in other
words that all value is religiously derived), and he described
secularism (the secularism that took Europe out of the Middle Ages?) as
harmful to the nation. Last month he declared that secularism is
responsible for the nation's problems. Gingrich is the leading choice
among Republicans in the race for the presidency, and opposition to
secularism is being described as dominant among the Republican drive
Dec 16 Russia joins the 153-member World Trade Organization
(WTO) after eighteen years of negotiations. (The WTO decides when trade
liberalization agreements have been breached and when retaliatory trade
sanctions can be imposed.)
Dec 18 A summing up is being voiced as the last of US troops
leave Iraq - almost nine years since the war began. Many agree that US
political leadership was incompetent, that mistakes were made in
conducting the war. In the US the $1 trillion or more spent and more
importantly the 4,486 US military lives lost and 32,226 seriously
wounded are being weighed against changes in Iraq since 2003. The
Republican Party's candidate for president in 2008, Senator McCain,
remains adamant about his perception of victory in Iraq, and he
fervently describes President Obama's withdrawal of troops from Iraq as
putting at risk "everything that we gained." Other Republicans speak of
an intractable gain: Saddam Hussein is gone. Meanwhile, many if not
most Iraqis are glad they are no longer being bossed around by young
foreigners with guns. And many are bitter. Civilian Iraqi deaths are
counted at between 103,536 and 113,125. The war has left an estimated
1.75 million Iraqis displaced. Iraqi observers describe the war as
having exacerbated sectarian animosities. Sectarian violence continues,
and observers everywhere describe Iraq as still volatile, while some in
the US worry about the regime in power in Iraq having declared itself a
friend of the regime in Iran.
Dec 19 Kim Jong-il, Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's
Republic of North Korea, dies. He was called "father" by the people,
and contagious weeping is displayed in a nation where people are
expected to maintain childish devotion. He was the son the nation's
founder, Kim il-Sung, and is succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-un, age
28(?). Some of us expect the people's dynasty to end before long.
Dec 20 In Egypt yesterday dozens of newly elected members of
parliament and electoral candidates, including Mohamed Beltagy of the
Muslim Brotherhood, gathered on the steps of Egypt's high court to
demand that the military turn over power to the lower house of
parliament by January 25. Today is the fifth day of military crackdown
against protesters in Cairo. General Emara calls the protesters "thugs"
paid to throw Molotov cocktails at government buildings. The protesters
accuse the generals of delaying the transfer of power to civilian rule.
Thirteen people have died and several hundred have been wounded since
the crackdown began.
Dec 21 Several thousand women marched in downtown Cairo
yesterday expressing their anger over soldiers attacking demonstrators
with sticks, beating women to the ground, continuing to beat and beat
and to stomp the same persons. According to the New York Times,
historians called the women's rally "the most significant since a 1919
march against British colonialism." On CNN, scholar Fouad Ajami
described the attackers as members of the Security Forces, from poor
families, with low pay, jealous of the middle and upper class
demonstrators and poorly trained. Mohamed El Baradei tweets that the UN
High Commissioner for Human Rights has "urged Egypt's Senior Military
leaders to act on the violence or risk future prosecution."
Dec 22 North Korea's government media reports remarkable
events marking the death of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Il: ice on a
famous lake that cracked 'so loud, it seemed to shake the Heavens and
the Earth' and a mysterious glow on a revered mountain top. The
incidents are described by the North Koreans as having occurred on
their sacred mountain, Paekdu, which borders North Korea and China,
where Kim Jong-il is reported to have been born, also amid unusual
phenomena: a bright star that changed the season from winter to spring
and an awe-inspiring double rainbow.
Dec 22 In Baghdad the worst bombing attacks in months kills
at least 63 and injures around 185 - while sectarian tensions continue
to divide Iraq and its government.
Dec 23 In Prague thousands gather to pay their last respects
to Vacslav Havel, the dissident playwright, jailed by the
Marxist-Leninist regime, who became president after the fall of that
regime in 1989. At noon today the Czech nation observed a minute's
silence. Havel had at least one weakness: he smoked. He died of a
respiratory illness at 75. Havel was not a hater. As a playwrite he
took note of humanity's weaknesses as well as strengths. He advocated
tactics that were personal: individual avoidance of the Leninist
regime's cultural strictures. Rock and jazz are said to have played a
significant role in communicating togetherness in regime opposition.
(They were not facing the kind of murderous regime that exists today in
Syria.) Havel was a modest man who didn't enjoy or advocate political
theater in the form of public demonstrations. He became most heroic
among the Czechs without exhibitionism. Anne Applebaum writes of Havel
having been different from so many of his generation. "Obsessed for so
long with the tactics of destruction, few of them understood the
importance of reconstruction. In fact, victory was not just toppling
the old regime, victory was creating the institutions and symbols that
would replace it." Applebaum writes that Havel's essay," The Power of
the Powerless," will live forever.
Dec 24 Across the US, disorders erupt in stores as shoppers
struggle to lay their hands on a new pair of "Air Jordan" Nike shoes,
which sell for around $180. Meanwhile little enthusiasm exists for
spending just a little money to help governments, local or federal,
balance their budgets.
Dec 26 Al Jazeera reports that the Dead Sea has been falling
by more than a meter every year. Blame is being put on Israeli and
Jordanian companies taking more and more water and on climate change.
The sea is at least a third less than what it was fifty years ago, and
rival claims for the newly exposed land is being made by Israel,
Palestinians and Jordan.
Dec 27 Fifty Arab League observers, split into teams of ten,
do their first day of work in Syria. One team visits the city of Homs,
the day after dozens are reported as having been killed there.
Government forces including tanks are pulled back from the city. Large
anti-government protests take place in the neighborhoods of Bab Sbaa
and Khaldiyeh. A funeral march occurs in the Ghouta area. Rallies
supporting President Bashar al-Assad and the army are reported in two
other neighborhoods. (The diameter of Homs is roughly 10 miles or 16
Dec 28 An activist in Homs tells the Reuters News that some
families of people who have killed refuse to meet with Arab League
monitors because they are being escorted by an army officer.
Dec 28 An Egyptian court has ordered the military to end
forced virginity inspections in its prisons. The inspections have been
claimed as necessary to counter possible charges of rape.
Dec 28 Iran's vice president threatens to block transport of
oil through the Port of Hormuz - a move certain to create war - in
response to the West's "plots" to impose sanctions regarding his
country's nuclear program.
Dec 29 In China the year ends with a quick trial (on the
26th) and a ten-year prison sentence for Chen Xi for criticizing the
Communist Party. The charge: subverting state power.
Dec 29 A summary of record breaking weather in the US for the
year: in January, "paralyzing blizzards" dumping heavy snow in 22
states. In the spring, three of the largest twister outbreaks in
American history in just six weeks; triple the normal amount of
rainfall to the Ohio River Valley. In August, Hurricane Irene "drenched
the Eastern Seaboard" and triggered record flooding in New Jersey, New
York State and Vermont; Texas had its worst one-year drought; and
nationwide more than 6,000 heat records were broken this year - to say
nothing about the catastrophic weather that occurred elsewhere in the
world. Said weather continues to be associated by many with global
warming. (NewsHour, Dec 28)
Dec 30 It has been a bad year for African elephants. Despite
an international ban on the ivory trade, the trade has been booming,
much of the ivory ending up in China or Thailand. In 2011, 23 tons of
elephant tusks have been seized, representing at least 2,500 dead
animals, compared to 10 tons seized in 2010.
Dec 30 In Syria, fearful Alawi Syrians continue to support
the Alawi dictator, Assad, while his regime continues to terrorize
communities with tanks, bullets, knocks on doors, imprisonments,
torture and death. Eleven months of protests end with more than 5,000
dead, Arab League observers and the world looking on and anguished
Syrians asking why the international community continues to allow this
Dec 31 Yesterday in Syria, the presence of Arab League
observers emboldened opponents of the Assad regime to call for people
leaving Friday prayers to join anti-government rallies. The observers
were supposed to verify the implementation of a peace initiative and an
end to violence. Across Syria were big demonstrations. In the city of
Douma, 150,000 sat-in in front of the Arab League observers. In Douma
were reports of security forces firing on people from roof tops. There
were reports of tear gas and nail bombs tossed at demonstrators
elsewhere. The number killed yesterday is estimated at 35. Men were
filmed being taken away by soldiers to an unknown fate, with one video
showing the victim being shot at once inside a police van. State media
showed government rallies and made its usual accusations of a foreign
orchestrated plot. The government appears locked-in to a hostility that
prevents it from making any gesture toward reconciliation. The dictator
Assad, instead of appearing burdened by events, grinned with goofy
happiness as he waved clumsily to cheering supporters.
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